Laid Bare: Love Songs

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Andrew,Bryars,Erasure,Fujikura,Leadbelly,Levi,Meredith,Rihanna,Wallen
LABELS: Nonclassical
ALBUM TITLE: Laid Bare: Love Songs
WORKS: Songs by Levi, Meredith, Bryars, Wallen, Fujikura, Andrew, Rihanna, Leadbelly, Erasure et al
PERFORMER: Juice Vocal Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: NONCLSS016

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The all-female vocal trio Juice is something special. Not for them the easy satisfactions offered by groups like Trio Mediaeval, who revel in the natural tendency of solo female voices to sound ethereally beautiful and ‘spiritual’. As this CD demonstrates these three are feisty, and will take on anything. Among the collection of love songs are some newly composed pieces, and some surprising choices of older ones in new arrangements, including a blues song of Leadbelly’s and a single by Rihanna.

Not that Juice are averse to a bit of radiantly euphonious beauty, as Gavin Bryars’s Io Amai Sempre proves. At the opposite pole is Phillip Neil Martin’s setting of a Sanskrit text, where alto Kerry Andrew strikes a weirdly husky note, as if some ancient weed-encrusted totem has found its voice. Mica Levi’s Never Adore has two voices in quasi-medieval hocket, while the upper voice spins a melody. Like several of the other songs this one also appears in an interesting remix, with added electronics. Most startling is Dai Fujikura’s Away We Play, which harks back to those early electronic pieces where sounds were played backwards. Not every song works equally well, but taken as a whole the variety and virtuosity are astonishing, and rewarding.

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Ivan Hewett