Birds of Passage and Leonardo Rosado

Dear and Unfamiliar

Written by: DR on 06/03/2012 20:59:03

Hailing from New Zealand, Birds of Passage is the moniker under which female vocalist Alicia Merz operates. Her debut album, "Without The World", was apparently met with critical respect, which led her to embark on a European tour. Her second album, "Dear and Unfamiliar", is a collaborative cinematic concept album written with Leonardo Rosado from Portugal.

This is yet another Denovali release that I have taken to, and if anyone knows anything about that label, it is that they simply do not do uninteresting. "Dear and Unfamiliar" is, typically, an experimental collaboration, this time between singer and composer, resulting in an album that is stylistically hard to place. Unapologetically minimalistic, "Dear and Unfamiliar" is nevertheless a challenging record. The bleak atmosphere, and subtle textures within it, takes numerous listens (and a good pair of headphones) to yield its glory to you. Once you have taken the time to actually listen to it, though, you're likely to be awed by the astoundingly delicate compositions, the haunting vocals, the subtlety with which Leonardo Rosado crafts his soundscapes, and how immaculately Birds of Passage paints her colours in, atop, underneath, and around them. Moreover, it's the kind of record that you take in as an actual record - a cohesive album, not necessarily divided up by tracks, as each flows seamlessly into the next.

This record is definitely interesting, assuming you are a patient listener who likes to lie down and become enchanted by a world of music. The music itself sounds like that of a film soundtrack, not content with swirling ambience and perfectly formed textures, but also added to them are little sound effects, as though filling the wide open musical space with little references to the activeness of the people dwelling in this world. The silky vocals of Merz are stunning, coursing wonderfully throughout the atmosphere. Not only is she able to offer sweet, yearning vocals, as heard in opener "Dear and Unfamiliar", but she has the range and charisma to offer the slightly more hopeless, down-trodden side, as heard in "Here's Looking At You, Kid".

The first half of the album is dominated by the great performance of Merz; the second half succeeds because of the excellent compositional skills Rosado possesses. In conclusion, however, there is no real 'star' of "Dear and Unfamiliar". It is the result of two artists who just seem to get each other. And, if you're really lucky, then you, the listener, will get this too, because the world of "Dear and Unfamiliar" is trancing.


Download: any/all of it
For The Fans of: Tape Cuts Tape, The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble
Listen: Denovali page

Release Date 28.10.2011
Denovali Records

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