Album Review | Ivy Crown Records | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5
There is a swagger, a potential that bursts out of every note of Homes/Lives, Harri Endersby debut album release. Her voice, solo or in a multi chorus is assured, confident and always demanding of your attention. The band, Endersby, Rich Marsh and the wonderfully named Curtis Wayne Pierce Jr, sounds like a million pounds and along with some smart production add considerably to the whole. At no point on repeated listens have I felt this was the tentative sound of a musicians first faltering steps. This is someone striding confidently to the full spot light of centre stage and letting rip. Harri is on record as being inspired by the stark Icelandic electro-pop of Asgeir and Samaris and Intro the album opener, with its rattling drone, ambience and chilling vocals has a strong sense of that northern ambience that floods from Iceland, but also ECM ambient jazz musician Jan Garbarek. If they make anymore Wallender then Emily Barker’s Nostalgia would have a run for its money as incidental or theme music. “Laughter Lines” has the same glorious vocals, running on from the Fleet Foxes and The Staves. There is also a wonderfully recorded guitar, its huge note rumbles behind the harmonising vocals beautifully. The sound of the album Home/Lives is a big sound, but it is also an intimate sound that draws you into that warm voice. The track “Homes/Lives” carries on the perfect voice with a little vibratro and picked acoustic guitar. The bass and keyboards that build in swell up behind the vocals, building a wonderfully melancholic atmosphere. First Aid Kit, Bon Iver, the reference points triggered by an achingly beautiful voice over skilfully layered guitar and electronics are endless. “Bird And Whale” and “Noise” are carried on a choir of treated vocals, the beats that come in are perfectly placed and a reminder of how contemporary sounding this all is. There are wonderfully intricate guitars parts too, with flying fingers like the best of Newton Faulkner or John Renbourn as the falsetto choir tugs at your heart strings. There is a sense of real beauty running through the whole album. Noise even rocks out a little, before subsiding back to some Renbourn or Chapmanesque harmonics, but then it has too really with a title like that. “Stars Fall Down” is skilfully produced, there is space around the wonderful vocals as their sound fills the speakers. New groups like The Staves, who place voices together so well need to be listening carefully to the effortless beauty of the track particularly. “Let Me Run” has Harri Endersby opening up the voice and sounding like a 21st Century Judie Tzuke thundering through an anthemic ballad. Hear changes the feel and places Harri’s voice against beats and some industrial sounding keyboards. Someone should play this to the many fans of London Grammar or Clean Bandit, Endersby voice ties it all together and knits ancient and modern into something beautiful and strange. “Stay Awhile” adds a kind of pitch shifting, Laurie Anderson vocal to the mix, layering straight and treated voices together into an electronic whole that is wonderfully hypnotic. Harri’s vocals and the playing bind it together. With “Flesh And Bone” the transformation, like some kind of Folk Cyberman, is complete, the chopped and sampled sounds inhabit the world of early 80s experimental Peter Gabriel, Bjork or Imogen Heap. The beautiful finger picked guitars and CSN ambience of the first tracks have been replaced by machine man urban music, with a pulsing rhythm we are in Florence And The Machine or Royksopp territory. Almost in an exercise to see how far it can go, what still binds it together is the wonderfully expressive vocals of Harri Endersby. Final track “The Snow”, with its plucked violin intro and beautifully pure wintery vocals returns to a stripped back chilly ambience and we end as we began. There is much to listen to in this debut album, sometimes disparate elements and musics are blended and layered together perfectly. Acoustic and electronic, human and machine are all intertwined to make a whole that is bewitching and definitely within the tradition of fine genre straddling music. “Where does your mind go when your eyes close” indeed, there is definitely an otherworldly quality to the best of this album. Whatever you decide it should say on in the tin this is can of delights you will not regret opening.