[Album Review] Sarah Neufeld- The Ridge
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Release Date: February 26, 2016
Label: Paper Bag Records

Following last year’s stunning album ‘Never were the way she was’ with Colin Stetson, violinist Sarah Neufeld spent no time sitting on her laurels but barrelled headlong into her next solo projects. Gratifyingly, this album contains much of the sonorous drama from ‘Never were…’, as well as Neufeld’s signature emotional charge.

Frankly, most of us would be happy listening all day to those mournful chords that Neufeld draws out of her violin, but she herself is not content to be predictable. She mixes things up, plucking at her strings on occasion, incorporating clever elements such as swoops of synth bass, and above all adding her voice. She rarely sings in the conventional sense (“They All Came Down” is one exception), instead she vocalizes wordlessly, using her voice as another instrument to weave freely in and out of the sound frameworks. A good example is the standout track “Chase the Bright and Burning” where she coos, oohs and aahs with such abandon that she defies the very structure the song creates. It’s enthralling. For the listener it lends an exhilarating sense of liberation.

One of the biggest differences from ‘Never were…’ is the use of percussion. It’s not subtle. On the opening title track, the introduction of rock-style drumming dispels any notion that this is going to be free-form ambience. But it is the very fact that many of the songs on ‘The Ridge’ have solid bones that makes it all the more fun to wander around with the free elements, such as Neufeld’s voice.