Violinist Sarah Neufeld is best known as a member of Arcade Fire, but her compositional style couldn't be more distant from that band's dramatic bombast. It's minimalist and repetitive, strikingly gorgeous and textural. Neufeld knows how to use a violin the same way techno musicians use digital effects and computers; she repeats phrases and expressions, subtly layering in nuances and variations until she reaches a cohesive feeling.
The Ridge, Neufeld's second solo album, is an exciting work that matches that minimal solo sound with drums, vocals (often wordless), and other instrumentation. At times, it threatens to reach Arcade Fire levels of climax. The opening title track is the most thrilling piece of music made by a member of that band since its last album, and there have been many. Over the course of eight minutes, it is by turns chilling, unsettling, intense, and finally triumphant, as in the last two minutes Neufeld begins to sing actual, though somewhat unintelligible, lyrics. "We've Got a Lot" highlights other aspects of Neufeld's fascinating talent: she sings over a jerky ⅞ time signature and her own fiddle. "The Glow," meanwhile, takes a more patient approach, with electronic percussion and effects warping her slowly unfolding pizzicato over the course of seven minutes.
The Ridge won't please anyone looking for immediate, poppy pleasures, but it is crafted with care and precision and will hopefully open the door for many to the world of instrumental, abstract orchestrated composition. (www.sarahneufeldmusic.com)
Author rating: 7.5/10
Average reader rating: 9/10