Leila Adu: Moonstone and Tar Sands (digital outlets)

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Gold Yod ft PUBLIQuartet
Leila Adu: Moonstone and Tar Sands (digital outlets)

Brought to our attention by New York-based expat musician and designer Andrew B White, this artist is very much Elsewhere.

From what we can find she is a British-born expat New Zealander, a Grammy-nominated composer and an assistant music professor at New York University. She got her BMus at Victoria, Wellington and doctorate at Princeton.

She has written for the London Sinfonietta, Wellington's Gamelan Padhang Moncar and Orchestra Wellington, Bang on a Can, string quartets and others.

It looks like this is the fifth album under her own name.

Working here her trio and the PUBLIQuartet on strings, the pianist/singer skirts between genres (piano jazz, sung poetry, the melodrama of Broadway-like tunes) and – although they are quite dissimilar – the connection which comes to mind is Nina Simone for the expansive and exploratory vision.

On Negative Space she sings, “I’m no militant, I’m a peaceful kinda girl. I don’t aim to stake out my claim I just wanna do my thing about the place, but I exist in a negative space”.

In the sensitive and lightly swinging Book she addresses the conundrums in a relationship (“I don't wanna lose what we have 'cause it's nothing right now”)

But then on the more menacing and dramatic Snakepit: “I fell into a snakepit, filled with forked tongues and dead eyes. I get a sense of déjà vu. Everywhere minds are colonized. Imagination is good when reality kicks you in the teeth”.

For their intimacy and dense lyrics, these are songs you can imagine in a cabaret or hip nightclub setting, maybe even in a recital more than a larger concert setting.

Something as quiet, serious and cathartic as the stately, string-enhanced Tar Sands requires close attention: “I’m going on holiday, gonna sunbathe my troubles away so my pen, can cut a page again and move on.

“I bathe in music today to wash the pain away. Eyes are peeled like an onion skin, no surprises. Button up your mouth for what I’m about to say, stupidity is a silly word but pride and vanity go a long way.

“I’ve seen the coward in the mouth of the wolf. And the fear and the blame. Kindness starts only with the self. Care for the mind every day . . .”

Not an easy album if you are only paying casual attention -- it is more along the lines of art music -- but an interesting voice to discover, albeit belatedly.


You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here

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