Harpist soundtracks train journey across England on a winters day
Sitting on a train, watching the ever whitening landscape flash by. At times it’s surreal. Less than an hour ago I was in London. There was no snow, and even less grass and trees, and now all I can see is pastoral land. Each meter that passes reminds me of Christmas cards from elderly relatives in the 1980’s. Snow covered farms with “Happy Christmas” written in copper plate. But this isn’t a card, this is real-life. With each meter than passes I forget the scene immediately, and take in the new vista.
The soundtrack to this journey is American harpist Ana Caravelle’s 2014 album Benthic. Caravelle’s music is as lush and ethereal as my view out of the window. The comparisons to Joanna Newsom are immediate. How many contemporary harpists are there with high ethereal voices? But this is where the comparison should end. Unlike Newsom, Caravelle isn’t happy to stick within the formula of pop/indie music. Caravelle layers her music, and uses electronic instruments and production techniques to add texture and juxtapose the words and melody. This is chamber music for the 21st Century!
Releasing her debut album Basic Climb, in 2010 on LA’s Non Projects label, Caravelle showed that the harp wasn’t just for medieval and renaissance fairs. 2011 saw the follow up remix album Basic Climb Re-Imagined. This showed that mixing Caravelle’s beautiful voice, tender song writing and exquisite harp playing with contemporary electronic music worked just as well. The seeds were sowed for her sophomore album.
Choosing Non Projects again, Caravelle released Benthic last year. It was one of the best missed albums of 2014. Everything that was hinted at on Basic Climb and Re-Imagined was fulfilled on Benthic. Since 2010 Caravelle’s song writing and composition has improved. Her voice has also matured. Sounding like a cross between Newsom and Lana Del Rey at times, her sugar vocals ooze out of the speakers and draw you. The album is broken in to three suites, each one containing three tracks. Each suite tells a story and they overall they tell a bigger story. This is clever and impressive stuff!
There is enough going on here to play either at a dinner party or in those moments of quiet introspection. As I look out of the window, the swaths of arable land, and snow, are getting more and more sporadic, so it’s time for me to start getting my bags ready to disembark. But in the dying moments of this album I have the Christmas card fields lodged in my head, with an ethereal voice and plucked harp strings.