Rarely does a record’s name so well express its style, in this case, the fanciful baroque folk-pop of Melbourne singer and multi-instrumentalist Prudence Rees-Lee. On her debut album, Rees-Lee makes liberal use of a harpsichord, planting it among an illusory garden of cello, flute, piano and percussion. Usually, harpsichord has pomposity enough to make the walls close in but here the claustrophobia is airated by singing that blends Jane Birkin’s whisper with Jane Fonda’s Barbarella-era coquettishness.
Genuine nostalgia pervades songs like ‘Paradise’ – all solemn, finger-plucked guitar and feather-light harmonies – and intertwines with calculated nostalgia on songs like ‘Bridges’, the sci-fi synth effects of which could usher Spock and Captain Kirk (original series, naturally) through a strange new world.
Lyrically, Rees-Lee’s pastoral sensibilities have her perched somewhere in the family tree of traditional English folk – “The heart of a rose is delicate fare / It’s the promise and softness and love” – and, thus, she stays chaste even when extending the metaphor more suggestively: “Its texture is velvety common but rare / It always responds to a touch”. Meanwhile, her cover of ‘Come All Ye Fair And Tender Maidens’ itself follows a fine tradition of female-sung cautionary tales about men, like Pentangle’s ‘Let No Man Steal Your Thyme’.
Stylistic (and cosmic) flourishes aside, this record has an almost analgesic effect, soothing the day’s stresses like a deep sigh outwards.
Like this? Try these: Melodie Nelson, Meditations on the Sun; Pikelet, Stem.