A collaboration between pop singer Via Tania & the Tomorrow Music Orchestra, this is the sort of project that really excites me. Artists crossing boundaries, challenging themselves to work in a different idiom… A plethora of aesthetic potentials can open up during this kind of endeavor. From the opening notes of first single ‘I See You Tiger’, the unknown beckons. “Once you traded spices, but you got caught up with the pirates… Next time you be the air, I’ll be the leaves”. Beautiful lines sung by a beautiful voice, effortless and soulful like a sultry Scout Niblett. Accompanied only by the maneuvers of a shadowy orchestral body, something about the two elements combined creates a kind of magic – grounded but aspiring to bluer skies; the promise of uncharted territories.
I pretty much fought to review this. Blood was almost shed, I won’t lie. And I can’t say I’m especially proud of myself for that. Lured by that voice and the wonders it promised, I wandered into the record heedless of danger as one would follow a Will o’ the Wisp.
What follows the teaser track is a deeply rich, beautifully sculpted set of songs. Tania Bowers, secret identity of Via Tanya, stands upon a mountaintop for ‘In The Air’ while brooding tones and high staccato stabs usher in the song. Elsewhere, the soundworld is more whimsical. Whistles accompany the stargazing of ‘Moon Bow’, and ‘Where Would We Be?’ lilts like a ballad from a Disney film. Throughout her lyrics and the graceful way they’re delivered are sparks of genius; insightful imagery that suggests a deep engagement with her craft. Vocal lines are inseparable from the lush arrangements that surround them – so seamless is the collaboration it’s hard to imagine these artists were ever independent entities. ‘After Ever’ is another reverential highlight – “The sword that fell, those ringing bells, the vines and flowers grow so well”. Indeed they do.
I’ve been pondering since the first listen, if all is so beautifully realized and captivating, why at first did I walk away unmoved?
All of the tracks here are equally ethereal and stunning; so much so it’s hard to extricate highlights from the stately procession of sentiment and sound. Between songs and within them the dynamics are subtle, and throughout the tempo is fairly uniform. While the arrangements are not without invention, it feels somewhat like watching dappled sunlight on a forest floor as the branches sway above. It never quite brims over into a storm. The work avoids the portentous excesses of some of Joanna Newsom’s work – another beautifully minded musician with equally captivating talents – but with it loses the sense of risk too. Collaborations are exciting because they can open new vistas; something feels too comfortable here.
I wanted so much to love this record, and it presents much to appreciate. Perhaps my initial projections and imagined potentials are what sabotage here… No answer can ever be as intriguing as the mystery that precedes it. Even paradise can become commonplace with enough exposure; even heaven falters without an adversary to act as counterpoint.
Via Tania and the Tomorrow Music Orchestra is released 24th February via Narooma Records