Sea Of Bees – Songs For The Ravens

Sea Of Bees – Songs For The Ravens

A conundrum of an album to unravel.

Rating:

‘Songs for the Ravens’, the full-length debut from Sea of Bees (aka Sacramento-based multi-instrumentalist Julie Ann Baenziger) is a conundrum of an album to unravel. The immediate reaction to the delicate compositions contained within would be to call this indie-folk, but with overdubbed vocals and multiple aqueous, shifting instrumental layers, the more intricate textures of bands like Sigur Ros are brought to mind. This is well-thought out music. In fact, the only absolutely clear decision here has been what to centre on – that being Baenziger’s voice.

With vocals pitched somewhere between the childlike Alessi’s Ark and the woozy Scandinavian pop standard, the music of Sea of Bees, no matter how dense it might seem, constantly orbits around the gentle tones of Baenziger herself. It’s somewhat surprising just how versatile these vocals can be, with the double-header of the deep, pulsing ‘Marmalade’ buoyed by them while the precariously twee ‘Willis’ that follows is benefited by their youthful, skipping tones. The sheer meekness of the vocals never detract from the album as a whole, instead imbuing what could otherwise be overtly forceful, one-note ideas with an underlying (and pleasingly different) vulnerability.

It falls to the melodic side of the album to fail then and, with such a focus placed on vocal centrality, the rest can suffer somewhat. Many songs tend to wane intermittently, seeming directionless or complex for complexity’s sake. But with offerings as wide-ranging as swirling opener ‘Gnomes’ and ‘Blind’s switch to a gentle piano and string backing, it’s clear that these are minor blips, the first hurdles faced by a new artist with quite some promise. ‘Songs for the Ravens’ is by no means perfect, but stands as a statement of intent that in its own difficulties offers the listener not only an intriguing listen, but a welcome indication of what is to come.

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