Alessi’s Ark - The Still Life

‘The Still Life’ reflects a wispy collection of tales of love that, in contradiction to the album’s title, are wonderfully dynamic.

Label: Bella Union

Rating: 7

The last time we heard from her, Alessi Laurent-Marke – minus her Ark – was lending her soft vocals to the tactile soundscape of Orlando Weeks’ side project Young Colossus. It seems she’s taken detailed notes from that experience on new album ‘The Still Life’. Gone are the understated melodies of previous record ‘Time Travel’, being replaced by more elaborate arrangements instead. With the pulsing opening chords of ‘Tin Smithing’ and the unconventional percussion of ‘Whatever Makes You Happy’, there are elements of Young Colossus subtly weaved throughout.
 
Of this new sound, Laurent-Marke explains she “wanted to step back from playing acoustic guitar and immerse the songs in very different sound settings from previous recordings.’ As hinted at on single ‘The Rain’, she’s done just that, with her sweet musings being backed by electronic beats and an altogether wider instrumentation. In fact, the whole album seems to be more experimental and mature. Recorded in Athens, Georgia with producer Andy LeMaster, ‘The Still Life’ reflects a wispy collection of tales of love that, in contradiction to the album’s title, are wonderfully dynamic. From the subtle funk on her gorgeous cover of The National’s ‘Afraid Of Everyone’ to a French verse in ‘Sans Balance’, Alessi has compiled adventures and insight from the past few years into a landscape of a whole scale of emotions.
 
That’s not to say she’s completely abandoned the lullaby folk demeanour: tracks like ‘The Good Song’ and ‘Hands In The Sink’ see Alessi return to the form we’re used to, with delicate plucks of guitar and fragile, enchanting vocals to match. But it’s definitely a progression from her last album into a more profound and polished sound. Still at only 22 years old, it’s an assuring snapshot of where she currently stands as an artist - a ‘still life’, if you will.