Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Notes From The Tree House is the debut album from the preciously talented 18-year old Londoner Alessi Laurent-Marke. Leaving school at 16 to pursue a career in music was a brave move, but one that has proved to be very successful with a large MySpace following leading to a record deal with EMI. Not many young artists would be afforded the luxury of picking their own producer, but Laurent-Marke was and requested Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes whose most recent production credit was M. Ward's Hold Time.
Her songs inhabit a sensory world of horses, libraries, asteroids, of counting stars and freckles, magic and most importantly love, all delivered with Laurent-Marke's breathless and idiosyncratic enunciation. They are whimsical exercises in orchestral pop, full of sweeping melodies and perfectly nuanced atmospherics. From the baroque madrigal opening of “Magic Weather” to the lush, symphonic “Constellations”, replete with wistful keyboards and a raised seventh that is emotionally revealing, the album begins to weave it's spell. Singles “The Horse” and “Over The Hill” are sequenced together, and this adds a strength to the opening quarter of the record. “Ribbon Lakes” and “Memory Box” are perhaps the most traditional 'folk' arrangements on evidence here, with a distinctly rustic Bright Eyes approach to dynamic and melody. Closing track “Glendora”, written while Laurent-Marke was 16, adds additional layers of sound that threaten to drown the song (especially the cheesy guitar solo) but the song's coda is otherworldly and unnerving, the most haunting moment on the album.
What is increasingly apparent is that despite the apparent innocence of the lyrics and their delivery this is a sophisticated take on modern folk music. But this is a collection of songs that is rooted relentlessly in the fleeting stretches of imagination and it is a singular take on love and life that is occasionally too saccharine. The one major complaint with this set is that her voice is not allowed the space to soar, constricted by an overbearing proclivity to drench every last moment in strings, unusual instrumentation and other aural embellishments. Note the similarity between “Over The Hill” and later track “The Dog” - the chosen arrangement only serves to heighten the surface resemblance between them. The songs work best when they are sparse, allowing the innate melodiousness of the songs to escape, and when Laurent-Marke evokes a darker mood that is fraught with tension.
Alessi's Ark descends from an identifiable lineage of fellow female songstresses (Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Cat Power, Feist, Joanna Newsom, Jenny Lewis, Laura Marling, Bat For Lashes). Staking a claim on such over-saturated ground is always going to be tricky, but Notes From The Tree House is a captivating listen that bodes well for the future.
This article was originally produced for http://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/. To read the music review of Notes From The Tree House by Alessi's Ark on the site please click on the article title.