Introvertni violončelo Julie Kent (članice bendova Rasputina, Antony and the Johnsons...) u ratu je s okolnim ekstrovertnim silama.
Opportunities for introspection have come few and far between for Canadian-born, New York City-based cellist Julia Kent. After coming to prominence as a member of the cello-driven group Rasputina in the ‘90s, she went on to arrange and play on numerous recordings and tour extensively as a member of Antony and the Johnsons, among other projects.
The opportunity to explore her own emotional and creative world came with her solo LPs, Delay (2007) and Green and Grey (2011), and it is something she appropriates fully on her captivating debut for The Leaf Label, Character.
Recorded alone in her home studio, Character develops the layering techniques Kent brought to the fore on her previous solo material, the flow of intertwining cello motifs working as an external representation of competing internal meditations. “I ended up thinking about the process of life,” explains Kent. “How sometimes a narrative in fiction is meant to mirror the chronology of human life, and how our lives, in a way, can resemble works of fiction, but without the possibility of controlling the outcome the way an author can.” Thus, she called the album Character, a reference to the notion of humans being characters in their own narrative.
In the past the cellist has adopted field recordings to accompany her playing; Delay saw recordings taken from various airports as Kent became fascinated by their ambience, whilst samples were taken from nature as she explored boundaries between electronic and organic sounds on Green and Grey. In Character, their somewhat hidden nature is just as important, reflecting the need for introspection that drives the album.
“Incorporated sounds are important,” Kent explains. “They contrast and complement the cello, my primary instrument, and also evoke the concept of a voice without being, literally, a voice. So I used a lot of found and processed sounds to try to achieve that: from matches being struck, to wineglasses, to the sound of pen on paper, to an ancient autoharp that, over time, ended up being detuned in a way that created an amazing sonority.”
Underpinning it all is the Canadian’s love and attention to detail for recording and looping; she’s an artist who derives pleasure from the familiarity of recurring patterns, yet also sees each revolution as a chance to adjust and alter, and so subtly moving a soundscape onto a different plane altogether. A loop, too, means that no mistake is truly an error, more a facet that can be expanded upon when the next cycle comes round. “I love that events within a loop can become integral through repetition,” she enthuses, “So you learn to embrace the accident, or the serendipitous sound that takes the music in an unexpected direction.”
If her first two albums saw Kent developing her individuality, Character is perhaps the first time she’s had the courage to take what she’s learnt and deliver an album of such depth and contemplative beauty. “It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to enter other people’s musical worlds and discover how they communicate their ideas,” she insists, “But I love the autonomy of creating and performing entirely alone.” It’s all too easy to forget that, in a world of unprecedented access to information, advice, opinion and influence, the most important voice to anyone is their own. It’s something Julia Kent knows, though, and has sought to hear over the din of her surroundings, in doing so producing her most confident solo statement yet.
The somewhat Art Deco-styled cover illustration on Julia Kent's Character is a dramatic contrast to the photo-based images gracing her previous albums, 2007's Delay and 2011's Green and Grey. But while that difference in visual design might suggest a corresponding change in sonic approach, Character doesn't so much signal a change in stylistic direction for the Canadian-born and New York City-based cellist so much as it represents a further refinement of her artistry. The ten settings composing her debut for The Leaf Label prove to be as captivating as those that came before, and Kent, who also has established herself through associations with Parellel41, Antony and the Johnsons, and others, shows herself once again to be a solo artist of exceptional caliber.
And a solo project it most assuredly is, as Kent recorded Character alone in her home studio, methodically crafting each of the album's mini-narratives into compelling form. Obviously choosing her titles with care, she is sensitive to the associations that develop between a title such as “Only Child” and the loneliness conjured by its emotional instrumental terrain. Dashes of dulcimer-like sounds and percussive taps added to the cello's flowing lines imbue the similarly evocative “Flicker” with an aura of intrigue that suggests the mystery of an espionage thriller set in some exotic foreign land, while rapidly plucked patterns form a spidery backbone for multi-layered bowing in “Transportation,” whose lulling waltz figures generate a dream-like effect that's powerfully seductive.
Utilizing the full array of cello-related techniques, Kent creates immersive sound worlds that impress as fully formed in spite of their extreme concision (none of the ten pieces exceeds five minutes). She exploits layering to the fullest degree possible, with a given track sounding as if it's being performed by a tenet of cellists as opposed to one (albeit one well-armed with looping and layering technologies). The album's cello-based sound world extends subtly into other realms via Kent's inclusion of found and processed sounds (apparently struck matches, an ancient autoharp, and wine glasses filter their way into the album), as well as field recordings, which are threaded subliminally into the material. The bright percussive patterns (originating presumably from the wine glasses) in “Salute,” for example, provide a bold timbral counterpoint to the luscious string textures, and ranges of mood and tempo are plentiful, from the funereal mournfulness of “Fall” to the stern majesty of “Kingdom,” a portentous set-piece that darkens to a point of nightmarishness. As a final reminder of Kent's talents as both performer and composer, the closing elegy, “Nina and Oscar,” makes for a beautiful exit to an altogether remarkable collection. - www.textura.org/
This is the album that turns a corner for cellist Julia Kent. This may be the last time we remind people she once played in Rasputina and Antony and the Johnsons. Those facts really doesn’t matter anymore. Following two previous albums and an EP, this sublime performer has found her true voice. The new album, in deference to its title, demonstrates not only the aforementioned character, but definition and verve. The water sounds are gone (a hindrance in Last Day in July), the flow is tempered and the confidence levels through the roof. Perhaps the shift to Leaf has had a part, as this album displays an unprecedented command of emotion and flow; it’s the album fans have been waiting to hear for years. Kent has the power to sadden, soothe or motivate, all of which are apparent within the first few tracks. ”Ebb” is the solemn acknowledgement of suffering, the friend at the bedside, the soldier come to break the bad news. Sullen and deep, the track mines the area of the heart often kept secret, the locked-in, lonely crevasse. ”Transportation” is the pulse, the balm, the bandage. Here the cello is used not only as melody and harmony, but percussion: the tapping that intimates life. Bow strings are balanced by plucks; the spirit rebounds. In “Flicker”, a swift 32-note motif is augmented by light drums; spring arrives, the windows are thrown open.
These themes alternate throughout the album, often unfolding in the course of a single song. The strongest individual motif dominates the end of preview track “Tourbillon”, a fiery draw of bow across string that heats like a winter blaze. The only rough spot arrives in the album’s center, as “Kingdom” draws connection to Kent’s experimental past. The track is dark, dreary, and nearly discordant, sounding more Miasmah than Leaf. Thankfully, Character‘s second half makes a quick recovery, slower and more restrained, reflective by proximity. By the end, listeners have gained a sense of Kent’s character: ambitious, resolute, not content to rest on laurels. These traits serve her well, inspiring the possibility that every subsequent album will be her greatest. - Richard Allen
The life of Julia Kent’s cello could be the life of another, with the various interludes of love, loss, hope, tragedy and inspiration encountered along the way; being on board cloud nine destined for dreamland, only to lead to a catastrophe years down the line, and vice versa. Such is life. There are many twists and turns during its course, meandering like the texturally thick melodies flowing through the music’s arteries in a continuous circulation. Life is an experience that curves throughout the increasing years like the arcing lifeline traced over the palm of every hand. The options along the way are plentiful, and the course we should decide to set can tell us a lot about ourselves, as well as teaching us essential lessons on how to become a better person, a better human being. Each new year contains another, higher level of realisation and inner growth, another kind of ascension that leads to a better understanding of ourselves. As we develop, our gained wisdom and increased positive influence can seep into the world, and this positivity that one channels can help to change and heal difficult situations, the course of the future and ultimately change the course of a life. One may find it a struggle to choose the right direction, but it’s always there, and always has been – it’s what your soul sings, beating as true as a heartbeat. This song is unique to everyone, and Julia Kent has certainly found hers – it’s what Character sounds like. Her true voice speaks through her music.
I often wonder if those difficult times are presented to us as a challenge of sorts; if we are able to rise above and through it, we usually find out a lot of useful information about ourselves in the process. Of course, nothing ever worth having is ever easy to attain. You have to really search – diamonds aren’t found in the upper areas of displaced earth. They’re formed deep down, almost as deep as Character’s music, and it takes effort to find. Effort isn’t just a physical act; it can also be heard in the air. Julia Kent’s music is so well thought-out, densely layered and introspective that it becomes evocative of the heart – her heart – and the result is music that reaches those advanced levels only attainable to those who understand the way to get there – the way to their song, and to what she has to say. She plays with crystal clarity the song inside her, and this helps to produce highly focused music with a deep heart – her effort becomes personified.
Musical instruments are their own characters, too, and come in a wide array of appearances; each one shines a unique aura of colour, expresses themselves as a different personality and sings a different tone, yet all are beautiful. Have you ever stopped to notice how beautiful instruments really are? It isn’t a coincidence that the beauty of music pours from such wonderful designs, temples for the worship of tone embraced by an amazing musical architecture of silky curves and loving craftsmanship. Inside, they look to take on an almost holy, reverential light amid an innocent space, touched only by music’s vibrations.
All instruments feature shapes and sizes different to each other, but all of them possess the potential for stunning music. It might be a sad fault that we as a species seem to rely primarily upon appearances to an almost psychotic level of obsession (the phrase ‘love at first sight’ springs to mind), but this is the result of evolution more than anything. In a perfect world, it’s what’s inside – the notes, the music, the personality and the character – that should really count. Unfortunately, this is the minority mantra in Western culture. Everyone wants the prettiest instrument – myself included – even though looks don’t actually produce the notes required for there to be music (although it’s been proposed that specific colours and shapes of the body affect and influence the resulting tone, and with an open mind I’m leaning towards this belief). Preference is always a personal choice (beauty is in the eye of the beholder), and appearances affect our thoughts; easy on the eye looks are often favoured, unless they’re intentionally abandoned for the ugly duckling, and some instruments are just blessed with natural good looks. Music teaches us many things, in fact I dare say that it teaches us more than the school classrooms of our youth, and in this instance, the primary focus on looks is an indictment of our skin-deep society. People are different, physically and in personality. Instruments are no different.
Every instrument is both aurally and visually different. If we wanted to blur the lines between human personality and the personality of music even further, we could represent instruments as different personality types. Let’s start with the guitar. The bad boy electrical reputation can’t conceal a genuinely beautiful, thoughtful air, where intricate melodies can burst forth all at once, but this personality is split, tinted with a distortion-esque rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and capable of screaming the place down with a voice turned up to 11.Violins eek out delicate melodies with an unmatched sensitivity; she’s a sensitive soul. The piano offers soothing tones of smooth, flowing lines that contrast coolly with that of a violin. Finally, the cello is brooding and deep; a meditative person that’s always reflecting on life. As with people, we see that instruments shine with different personalities, yet music links them all as one. It is Julia Kent’s cello who speaks as if human, with music and not with verbal words, and in so doing enacts a narrative featuring many figures, all with a different life story waiting to be revealed. Character reveals itself slowly, from shy beginnings to a finale displaying who they really are to the world, free of care.
In Character, Julia Kent explores the notion of humans being characters in their own narrative. Are we in control of the journey? Or is the thought of control, and the safety the thought brings, just an illusion? Do we write this narrative as the years turn like pages? Like a story, there’s only a limited number of pages until we reach the end. Heroes and villains enact their own dramatic stories over the space of unpredictable chapters (the only predictable thing is the standard of musicianship, which is exceptional). Her highly-detailed passages reflect multiple ways of life; the lives of passing strangers on rainy streets, faces we see every day but never talk to save for a smile and the inviting smiles of friendship that can’t be blunted by another’s emotional jealousy. We are all unique, as are the instruments we play. Don’t slip to demand, or what others may expect of you; if you stay true to yourself, and to the music inside you, the song that flows ever outwards will be heart-felt and beautiful. Julia Kent has done exactly this, and this is why Character is a well-rounded individual. Her music is born in her soul. It’s a feeling in the air; like a finely tuned radio signal, her soulful, dedicated playing is an inviting frequency to tune into. Yet, usually this signal is incredibly hard to sustain without any kind of interference, in the form of weaker pieces that dilute attention and decrease the effect of the music as a whole. Character doesn’t have any of this interference – it’s strong music all the way through, full-bodied in sound, as if the music is mirroring the wide, curved body of the instrument it so recently departed.
‘Ebb’ is quite a foreboding entry, like an unapproachable character lit in the dim fog of a dimmer evening light. Yet, when the cello swells, it is with a beautiful chord transition that reveals just why they act the way they do. Still, her music intertwines comfortably, like hair that’s beautifully and naturally tangled. Character is all about finding who you really are, accepting it and sharing it with the world, through music. What was at first shy now blossoms into a personality unique to the composition. Julia Kent shows us physical people in a musical world, all leading lives that are invisible to the naked eye. There are signs of a human presence in her restricted use of field recordings, but they are only crackles and hints, like footprints left behind on sand, in a world where the unseen is so much more powerful than the visual image. All of the images are left to our own imagination. Her use of field recordings are tapered down to the point of necessity rather than indulgence, which helps to give the record a clearer purpose and a clearer story to her narrative.
‘Transportation’ shivers downwards in a percussive spiral, rhythmic stabs piercing the air as a melody comes to the fore and then retreats in a continuous, looping circle. Thoughtfully constructed, her pieces are able to breathe deeply while remaining intricate and highly detailed, like a hive of a mind buzzing with the activity of thousands of thoughts. Leave your worries behind and dance your cares away, because Julia Kent’s playing is free of any anxiety and stress that thoughts can leave in the mind. Melancholic ‘Fail’ is all the more beautiful for its sadness, as we look on a downcast head, bowed and covered so as to hide the tears from onlookers. No kind of comfort is available to this individual; winds pick up speed and blow against the mournful sanctity of her cello. Cello, as mother, soothes amongst the cold emotions.
‘Only Child’ is perhaps the quietest of all the characters we’ve been fortunate enough to encounter. A solitary melody rises gently above a bass-line shrouded in a reverb that sounds like the pitter-patter of tiny feet, yet inside the curtained room there falls only a couple; the rest of the expansive room is silent and empty, with no one else to play with. This piece has time to sit and think, and as a result it feels more introspective than melancholy (although the sadness, perfectly suited to the cello, can still be found inside the piece, if you allow it to enter). Closing the record, we are introduced to ‘Nina And Oscar’, two cellos that dance closely together in complete freedom. The rising optimism and happiness inside the cello is due to their release into the world. Unafraid of the consequences, it’s a piece that enjoys the realisation that they can be who they truly are.
Character is a thoughtful record, one full of personalities. The use of cello entertains approaching shadows with her deep, darker tone, but the people and the stories inside the notes, and inside the music, aren’t always as cold or deceptive as they may appear. Just as in life, appearances can deceive, and Kent’s detailed pieces allow us to see them for who they really are, and in the process get to know (and, more importantly, understand) their stories. Our personalities and actions define us; they are the manifestations of the soul. How will you be remembered by others?
Her music is as a personality, one that breathes even with no kind of physical presence or bodily appearance. Character is special, and a sizeable part of this is down to Julia Kent just being herself. Maybe, out of all of the personalities on display, hers is the one that stands out from the crowd – and inside the music, you’ll find her character to be incredibly soulful, approachable and deeply touching. Character is also heart-warmingly introverted in a world that all too often screams and shouts for attention. Julia is saying it’s alright to be yourself. Don’t bow to peer pressure, and how others want us all to behave.
You can be yourself. - James Catchpole for Fluid Radio
Julia Kent has recorded and toured with Antony And The Johnsons (with whom she continues to work) , Stars Of The Lid and Michael Gira's Angels Of Light. Her work should appeal to fans of Nils Frahm, Low, The Dirty Three, Hildur Gudnadóttir, Colleen, Hauschka, Rachel’s, Olafur Arnalds etc* "Character is New York-based cellist and arranger Julia Kent’s third solo album, and first for The Leaf Label. Her richly layered cello and environmental recordings coalesce into a gorgeous, cinematic whole – an instrumental oasis in a cluttered musical world. Accurately described as “elegant and intense” and “deeply personal”, her work possesses an emotional resonance that sets it apart from many of her peers, Vancouver-born Kent first rose to prominence in the mid ‘90s in the original line-up of all cello trio Rasputina. Since then she has worked with numerous groups and musicians, both as a cellist and arranger. Her previous solo albums, Delay (2007) and Green and Grey (2011) were released by Important Records" - boomkat
Green and Grey (2011) streaming
The solo work of cellist Julia Kent deals in different ways with concepts of borders and of spaces which are neither one thing nor the other. Her first solo record, Delay, was based on that most modern (and Eno-esque) of limbos, the airport. Having crossed the globe in a number of different ensembles, most famously as a member of Antony and the Johnsons, but also with a range of more leftfield acts such as Rasputina, Burnt Sugar, Angels Of Light and Stars Of The Lid, she found she was spending rather a lot of time trapped in those places, and elected to use them to her advantage. She made recordings in airports, and used them as the foundation for Delay, naming the resulting tracks after the airports in which they were recorded. The title of her second album for Important suggests she has found the way out, but only to another place betwixt and between: the place where the grey of the city meets the green of the countryside. And exactly how much of an escape that turns out to be is open to question.
Green And Grey opens and closes with cicadas, stridulating in the evening air, with Kent’s looped cello building upon the samples to create the compositions. In between, there are tracks named after trees (“Ailanthus”), water (“Acquario”), landscape features (“Overlook”) and constellations (“Pleiades”), but also in one case, a building (“Spire”). It seems at first listen that Kent is outside, recording the sounds of the natural world, in order to inspire her work. The natural rhythms of those insects, the gurgle of water, the patter of raindrops, all find a musical echo in the tracks which follow them. So in a number of ways, the modus operandi hasn’t changed from Delay, it is just the location (or rather the locations) which is different. What is most telling here, however, is just how unobtrusive the recordings are. They are but brief snatches of very quiet sounds, the merest hints of the ambience of the outside world.
Leaving aside Eno (whether she draws from him intentionally or not), you have an album which takes similar cues as the likes of Johann Johannsson and Max Richter, or perhaps Hildur Gudnadottir with her more diaphonous cello work Without Sinking: modern, melancholic, minimalist, classical. However, in a sense trying to pigeonhole her records goes against their very essence: they seem to be born of a desire to break out, to escape. The short, churning rhythmic loops which underpin so many of these pieces act like an anchor, these ostinati counteracting the melody line’s desire to take the piece into different landscapes.
The more you listen, the more it begins to feel like, despite first impressions, this is less a record about the physical border between the city and the country, and more one about a mental border. The sound of echoing footsteps in “Ailanthus” suggest we haven’t even left the building, while the water heard in “Acquario” may even be the sound of a fishtank, rather than a stream. The cicadas are just as likely to be heard through an open window; let’s face it, you aren’t going to be plugging in a looping pedal in the park. As the surge of those song-like melodies is once more halted in its tracks, you feel that on Green And Grey Kent is as trapped in the city as she ever was in the airport. With the urge to escape to nature being defeated time and time again by more mundane concerns, sometimes all a city dweller can do is dream of leaving. - www.theliminal.co.uk/
Last Day in July (2010) streaming
Delay (2007) streaming
Julia Kent has lent her considerable talents as a cellist to the likes of Antony & The Johnsons, Rufus Wainwright, Devendra Banhart, Angels Of Light, Larsen and Mi & Lau to name but a few. Delay is Kent's beautiful debut of multitracked cello music. It's baffling to think that there's only one person working on this record, it sounds every bit as if a full ensemble were at work. Kent's solo work is characterised by a clear knowledge of modern classical music and a very lyrical, often cinematic set of composition principles. The opening chords of 'Gardermoen' confirm that Kent has a particular knack for a kind of aching romanticism, full of rich melodicism and detailed arrangements. Interspersing the cello pieces are an assortment of interloping vignettes made up of found sounds. These tend to take the form of recordings from busy public spaces, and give some valuable contrast to Kent's incredibly emotive, up-close and personal cello performances. It's great to hear someone who's been previously relegated to supporting roles making such a complex and satisfying body of recordings for her debut solo album. Recommended. - boomkat
Julia Kent left Rasputina in 1999, after releasing two albums on Columbia Records, and shortly thereafter became a member of Antony and the Johnsons. She played on and contributed string arrangements to the group’s Mercury Prize-winning record I Am a Bird Now, and, as a Johnson, has toured Europe, North America, and Australia; played at Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall; and appeared on numerous television shows. In addition to her ongoing participation in Antony and the Johnsons, she also has performed and/or recorded with many other artists and ensembles, including the Angels of Light, Burnt Sugar, Larsen, Angela McCluskey, Leona Naess, Teddy Thompson, Devendra Banhart, Mi and L’au, and Rufus Wainwright.
Her debut solo effort, Delay, is a cd of multitracked cello and found sounds. It was inspired by airports, by transitoriness, and by the private emotional worlds that we create amid the disorientations and disjunctions of travel. Delay was recorded over the course of a year (or so) at home in between touring and traveling. After so many years of playing with other people Julia felt that it was time to do something entirely on her own. As a result she is the sole composer/performer on all tracks. The title refers to both the effect, to traveling and to the fact that it took so long to record. It is also an homage to Arthur Russell''s World Of Echo – a masterpiece of (among other things) externalizing the intimate. - importantrecords.com/