The full Eleven Passages album from Clara Engel arrived on July 27th, but in the buildup to its release there were two excellent tracks freely available via the Bandcamp page of the releasing record label, Polar Seas Recordings. I spent a lot of time with both tracks, “You’re Not Wrong” and “All Kinds of Rain,” which showcase Engel’s penchant for heavily echoing electric guitar. Simple melodies played with deep attention emerge from thick bogs of their own lush overtones. The music is widescreen cinematic and, at the same time, closely felt. Fans of the country-infused movie scores of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis will appreciate the music. The former track is an elegantly stated single-note lead performed with every ounce of its phrasing emphasized, even as ghostly echoes shudder around it. The latter track explores a more complex approach to composition, the background tonalities given space to reveal their own intricacies.
Upon its release, the album’s other nine tracks came into focus. They range from a semi-abstract re-arrangement of “Hush, Little Baby” to an instrumental setting for a Paul Celan poem to plaintive efforts on the acoustic banjolele. A key track is “Walking in a Blizzard,” which has a reverberating guitar line that does David Lynch and Roy Orbison proud. In it, storm clouds circle while the melody holds the threat at bay.