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Veda Hille : Field Study

REVIEW: Veda Hille: Field Study
3.1.2002 by Sean

Veda Hille: Field Study [Self released, 2001]

Two words? Springtime blossom.

Canadian songstress Veda Hille released this disc last year following a journey she took into the Yukon during the summer of 2000. While it's not the typical concept album, all sixteen songs deal with Hille's exploration of nature, heredity and the arctic, taking the singer-songwriter's expressive, free-ranging voice and winding it around dominant, restful/stormy piano.

Opener "Carnage" sets the tone with its quiet, simple piano-line, paired with a peculiar-but-sweet vocal melody: a rising prelude about people and the sea. This leads into the outstanding "Plants", which drifts from a sinister ebb-and-tide section about poisonous berries into a lovely, lilting alt.chorus. Hille sings with great confidence, and her thick voice capably travels from the dark to the bright, much like Aimee Mann.

Field Study also features several experiments with glitch and electronic music - "Teem" and "Observations: Water" among the foremost of these. The pieces are distracting, and initially sonically interesting, but otherwise I find them tedious. The same can be said for the instrumental tracks of the disc, and this is the album's primary flaw. As we get further and further away from the delightful first half of the record, it's easy to get bogged down in the winding, cold piano runs of Hille's piano compositions. The songs of Field Study are best when there is a strong human element - from the beautiful sing-song of closer "Song of the Little Wind" to the rising church-organ hallelujah of "Tuktoyaktuk Hymn". The same can be said of the bizarre - but excellent - "Birdsong", where Hille's strange birdcall/beat-poetry flourishes mix with evocative, real birdsong.

While Field Study is not Hille's masterwork - nor does it even touch on the Sheryl-Crow-for-smart-people vibe she approached in You Do Not Live In This World Alone - it is a terrifically different album from the conventional singer-songwriter record. Veda Hille sends her songs out like birds - dappled sparrows, swift starlings - and sings as they whirl in the blue, blue, cloud-kissed sky.

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