reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Violinist Sarah Neufeld adds to her solo canon with Detritus, her third album. It is a substantial piece of work dating back to 2015, when Neufeld met and collaborated with choreographer Peggy Baker. The two struck up an intense understanding, but the short time working together was ultimately unfulfilling. This led to a reunion in 2019, where Arcade Fire member and Bell Orchestre co-founder Neufeld effectively faced off in improvisation with Baker, and the seeds of Detritus were sown.
What’s the music like?
As striking as the cover art. This is a powerfully affecting piece of work in which the violin is only a part of the story. Although it is a lead character, Neufeld has plenty going on around the loops and cells of the stringed instrument, with wide open effects and textures and a substantial body of percussion, inspired and executed by Arcade Fire bandmate Jeremy Gara. Bell Orchestre‘s Pietro Amato brings rich horn textures, while flautist Stuart Bogie adds deep woodwind colour.
The violin is played with the poise of a dancer, with an airborne feeling to the instrument’s commentary on Stories. With Love And Blindness has impressive depth and again a tension between the slow moving vocals and the urgency of Neufeld’s melodic cells. The Top is propulsive, flickering figures dancing up and down. Tumble Down The Undecided is a very impressive piece of work, the violin dancing across the strings as long, noble notes go across the music like tracers, all to the accompaniment of rolling percussion and the swell of cymbals. Shed Your Dear Heart is also a substantial structure, with the violin looping constantly while rolling drums march forward, more than a little ominously.
Does it all work?
Yes – and the more you listen, especially on headphones, the more you appreciate the expert layering of parts and intersection of the musical motifs.
Is it recommended?
Yes, enthusiastically. It is great to have Miller and Jones committing their friendship to record in this way, and the musical chemistry between them is clear. Hopefully this will lead to further installments!