Ice Age Paradise
Independent SEN06 (siennadahlen.com)
Joel Miller; Sienna Dahlen
Origin Records 82713 (originarts.com)
Sienna Dahlen follows the great line of Canadian vocalists who commit to disc the poetry of music written from the heart. She also reveals that she is a queen of bright timbre and contrasting colours; a lyrical vocalist par excellence. On Ice Age Paradise she plays characters that are elementally flawed and tragic, revealing the raw wounds of their emotions as they rise up in the throat. The performance is a visceral one that flirts dangerously close to music’s nerve endings. Dahlen has in her sights a pure kind of poetry. How beautifully Venezia dances its ghostly waltz here, the flowing speed perfectly judged by conductor Andrew Downing to give the rhythms a lift and allow Dahlen to phrase the poem in unbroken sentences with total naturalness. Throughout, Dahlen is an engaging storyteller who brings to life a narrative almost completely visualized in monochrome. But as surely as night turns to day, voice, piano and bass, horns and cello, guitar and drums open the door to an attractive, songful luminosity that glimmers as if from a rainbow-coloured gossamer web.
On Dream Cassette, Dahlen teams up with an extraordinarily gifted multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Joel Miller who, in each of 12 original songs here, has tempered his arsenal of sophisticated compositional resources with fond and haunting reminiscences reflecting the contours of New Brunswick’s rich and yet starkly dramatic cultural landscape. The mostly unfamiliar tunes serve as unifying devices, which in the hands of Miller and Dahlen, together with a crack ensemble, elevate their intentions through deconstruction in a variety of unexpected ways. Songs such as Flying Dream and Corey Heart are densely evocative and hypnotic musical embroideries while the audacious Streamlined is at once raucous and poignantly eloquent. There is a wonderful kaleidoscopic palette of vocal colours from Miller’s saxophones throughout, with plenty of sonorous bloom for high and lonesome notes. For her part, Dahlen brings an ethereal beauty to this recording, singing gloriously as she rises fluently to the stately melodic lines of Miller’s music.