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Album: So Long Solemn
Label: You What Now
Tracks: 9

This, the debut album from singer and double bassist Rebekah Bouche and her trio bandmates (Greg Sanders on electric guitar and Joe Sharp on trumpet, flugelhorn and cornet), forms a mesmerising, mesmeric, lazy and leisurely extended groove. It's an album with a hell of a presence, a moody aroma all its own, unmistakable and highly individual yet with all the aura of classic, even nostalgic - but also profoundly modern. In its sexy atmosphere especially, I'm tempted to compare it with the iconic Cowboy Junkies album Trinity Sessions, although Bouche inhabit a different, altogether jazzier groove.

The album's title So Long Solemn is I guess a kind of statement of intent, in that the predominant tone is solemn and the album as a whole is so long (though gloriously so, at 61 minutes). The phrase So Long Solemn comes from the sixth track, 23rd Time Lucky, a thorny cascade of emotions that sweeps you along with its episodic changing perspectives and dramatic delights. But possibly even more appropriate a label is the title of the opening track, in that Everything And Nothing All At Once really sums up Bouche, their signature sound and the sparse yet luxuriant texture, the economy of expression and the understated richness of Rebekah's imagery. And yet, in spite of the self-evident artistic consistency of Rebekah's vision, the musical landscape shifts, swings and dances round about, as she weaves her wordscapes through into and back from the sinous, languid yet precisely contoured melodies.

Rebekah's own double bass work is miraculously supportive, yet feels part of her voice, while the brilliant interplay with Joe's lithe and supple horns and Greg's piquant fretwork is nothing short of miraculous, the ensemble often living and breathing almost as one single organism. The album's full of standout tracks, but I'll start off with the literally spine-tingling experience of the close-on-eight-minute Old Man London, which just has to be one of the most captivating torchy slow-burn twelve-bars on the market, with its tremendous instrumental break where trumpet trades licks with burnished electric guitar as it spits out reflections on Rebekah's evocative impressionistic lyric. It's a hell of a tribute that this track captivates so much when it follows the epic, enormously beautiful chamber-folk of If I Were Queen (which clocks in at an amazing nine minutes but doesn't feel anywhere like that), which drifts along through a gorgeous string-soaked reverie out of whose shimmering haze creeps a crystalline trumpet melody. House Of Cards is a desperately wistful lament, almost a hymnal to the emotional subconscious, which leads almost inexorably to Yankel's inevitable paradox by way of another of Alistair Caplin's curiously engineered string salvos.

Otherwise, one might say that the album's textures inhabit the spacious sparse luxuriance of the lounge, and Rebekah's signature singing invariably cuts through, carving a swathe with its impeccable but fluid, laid-back but intense and often unsettling narrative; it should feel desperately lonesome, but instead it's strangely comforting in its darkly layered and beguiling cocoon, even on the nightmarish and queasy emotional switchback of closing track Into The Sea..

It's weird the effect this album has - one hearing, it might plain refuse to "take", in which case it'll be likely to bore you rigid with its unhurried pacing and unashamed longueurs. But then on the next hearing it'll grab you from the opening note, then cast its spell and then NEVER LET GO. And I mean that; for it connects, no mistake - and how!

David Kidman

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