RISE – Strangers
There are some albums that sneak into your soul, and get under your skin, they become friends, companions and you return to them, again and again.
I have been reviewing a variety of genres for various places for over 25 years and have heard probably thousands of albums, and I can count about a dozen bands/artists like We Are Kin, Schauser, Karda Estra/Richard Wileman or Regal Worm where having heard the review, I have subsequently bought the albums and continued to buy all their albums.
Talitha Rise/RISE is one of those artists, sometimes you’ll hear an artist who will make you see music in a different way, open your ears and refresh and uplift you.
The impact last years An Abandoned Orchid House, the debut album by Jo Beth Young released in June last year, had the same impact on 40 year old me, as Toris Amos’ Under the Pink album had on a 16 year old me, it gave me a new perspective and reignited a passion for new and exciting music.
Now, rebranded as RISE, Jo Beth releases Strangers on the 18th October this year, and her new album is as beguiling and bewitching as the debut. This 9 track collection is a testament that the art of songwriting and creating a coherent whole is alive and well, and Jo Beth’s second album is as excellent a journey as her first one.
I lauded An Abandoned Orchid House as an album of the year (& I have a copy on vinyl as well!) and am pleased to say that the new album picks up where the debut left of, The star of the album is undoubtably Jo Beth’s unqiue vocals, from ethereal to emotional, powerful to passionate, Jo Beth has every avenue covered, and, as it should be her voice is centre stage on what is an inspiring and effective collection.
Opening with some oninous and sinister chords, Dark Cloud is a suitably powerful way to open the album, blending the atmospheric and haunting sound of the strings and guitar, weaving an aural tapestry, that allows Jo Beth to build on, as her voice duals with the violins, and the suitably ominous soundscapes. Temple again has some amazing violin work by Helen Ross, and this blend of folk songwriting, dense and lush orchestrations, build to a wonderful crescendo, the song talking about sacrifices we make, and is an absolute belter, with some fantastic guitar work, in fact the combination of the beats, the mix of guitar and strings, and those powerful vocals from Jo Beth make this one of my favourite tracks on the album.
October seem’s an apt month for this to be released, as there is an autumnal element throughout the album, something evocative that suggests darker nights, huddling round fires for warmth as a storm rages outside, telling stories and sharing secrets, an album that sits, like autumn does between the suggestion of brighter days of summer, and the darkest depths of winter. Enigmatic and haunting.
Strangers, telling the story of a husband returning from War, who isn’t the man he was, and Jo Beth accompanies herself on piano whilst the sonic soundscapes build up tumultously behind her,and the vocals cut through so pure, so impassioned and intense, this is one of Jo Beth’s strengths, the songs are so authentic and you are drawn into her world, because she lives every song, she is the consumate musical storyteller, you believe in her world and then suddenly, it’s your world too.
The album continues in it’s own vein, with the sparse instrumentation, and haunting vocals on Cry Back Moon, where again the strings echo Jo Beth as she sings a love song for the moon, her voice soaring as if she is trying to raise her vocals to the surface of the moon, the power and indeed emotion she shows throughout this song, and album reinforces my opinion that RISE is one of the most original voices on the music scene at the moment. Burnt Offerings, has more of Jo Beth well observed lyrics ‘just because they sleep at night, doesn’t mean they get it right’ and this is reflected throughout this well crafted and dense song, which seems to these ears reflect the chaos we living in, complete with the couplet ‘the words of the wise are fading’
Rabbit Eyes, with it’s lyrics about stopping and pausing, for a moment, with some beautiful piano work and reflective and frankly beautiful lyrics, whilst the ambient soundscapes that the songs are built around, and the lysrics tie it round with references to the moon.
That is what I like so much about this album, it’s created as an album, an organic flow of tracks that seamlessly complement each other, and request to be listened to in order, it would be impossible for me to just ‘dip in’ to this, it’s an immersive and expansive experience (I really lost myself on the headphones).
Radio Silence, with it’s fantastic strings and percussive beat, as Jo Beth laments the end of a friendship and the complete radio silence when someone cuts you off, with no answers and no reasoning. Again her voice soars throughout here, and the ethereal musical backdrop really ties this together.
I will mention again how unlike anything else I’ve heard this year this album is, RISE has come out of left field with this one, really using the ideas from An Abandoned Orchid House and springboarding into new sonic arenas. This is an absoutely beautiful, spellbinding and mesmerising record, that closing with the double sucker punch of the emotionally exhilerating Skysailing and then the finale, The Old Sewing Womans Song, a traditional style song, an equisite and powerful lament, piano driven and allowing those beautifully clear vocals to come through.
At 9 minutes long it reminds me a touch of Tori Amos Yes Anastacia, although I am sure the reason why is because both of them are 9 minutes long and are piano and vocal driven, and close albums that make me reconsider and reconnect with the haunting power of music.
Just like Under the Pink in 1991, Strangers in 2019 has reminded me how much more there is to music out there, and sitting in October on the cusp of darker days (metaphorically and literally) this album is perfect,beautiful haunting songs that echo the beauty of summer, with that dark hint of winter coming.
Jo Beth is a unique talent, and this album will resonate with you, long after the last haunting, emotive notes from the heartbreakingly beautiful The Old Sewing Woman’s Song finishes. As I said earlier there are albums that sometimes fall by wayside, and others that continue your journey with you as companions, this is one of those albums.
Rise (Jo Beth Young) – Vocals pianos, guitars, stringed things, arrangement
Peter Yates – Electric guitars, eBow, keyboards, radio sounds
Julian Bangs – Bass
Matthew Rochford – Electric Guitars, eBow
Helen Ross – Violin
Ben Roberts – Cello
Ric Byer- Drums
Matt Blackie – Beats, programmed drums, synths
Released on Wise Queen records on 18th October 2019