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Autumnal Blossom: Spellbound

If you've encountered the expansive, enigmatic, progressive outlook of the band Poor Genetic Material, then there's a fair chance that you'll already be well aware of flutist Pia Darmstaedter, her contributions key to many of the band's best moments. Autumnal Blossom is the 'solo' outfit of the flute player, pianist, keyboard player and vocalist, Spellbound being their second album. Impressively the main lady herself has crafted all the music and all bar one song's lyrics, the opening track, "Because I Could Not Stop For Death", written by Emily Dickson. And that fact in itself goes a long way to revealing the personal, individual nature of the themes on display.

Split into three movements, Transcendence, Diaries Of An Estranged Voyager and Paradise, the album deals with 'a complex web of topics like love, passion, pain, memory, eternity and the quest of finding oneself', the songs taking the form of a fictitious journal. Although the hope is that listeners will be able to recognise themselves in the themes covered. In truth that makes for an involved, if sometimes difficult journey, where darkness dominates the light, although the varied, passionate delivery of the vocals do make it an engaging voyage.

Pia is an interesting singer, a wide range of approaches employed to convey her thoughts. The album begins with her breathy, deliberate delivery fragile, yet bold. Your attention immediately snapping into focus as dreamy whispers play on layers of gentle yet insistent sound. It's a low key opening but somehow it gives out a vital, vibrant feel that proves hard to resist and intrigues for what's to come. And with that, the opening movement of the album concludes, the centrepiece (8 of 10 tracks) of Diaries Of An Estranged Voyager beginning its pilgrimage, as "Memories Of A Child" brings a more upbeat intent, the flute brought to bare as a gently progressive jaunt begins; piano playing off guitar, drums and bass. From there the mood ebbs and flows, "Eternally Not Yours" pensive and fraught, "Grey Masses" an almost Kate Bush like piano-vocal trade-off, while "My Blood" proves more playful and poppy. Here Pia's vocals become a little less focused, the energy carrying the story, rather than the shimmer and accuracy that the slower moments rely on. It makes for clever counterpoints and yet, for me, they don't quite hold together with the same authority that the more introverted moments undoubtedly do.

The final, one track, movement arrives in the shape of "Paradise", a wide ranging piece that somehow manages to pull in most of what's come before and convey it in one reasonably short song. There's no denying it's one of the album's strongest points.

Progressive in nature and enigmatically poppy in places, Spellbound creates its message in less expected ways, singing-saw, violin, cello, double bass and English horn as likely to set the scene as guitars, drums, bass and flute. All the while Pia's vocals run the gamut from storyteller to celebration leader, doomsayer to memory jogger, never less than impressive, even if more convincing in some styles than others. If your looking for a progressive album that's more gentle than exuberant, or that isn't afraid to not really care what genre pot it gets placed in, then Spellbound may well be it. Not a perfect album by any manner of means, but an engaging, involving, enjoyable one nonetheless.

Track Listing
1. Because I Could Not Stop For Death
Diaries Of An Estranged Voyager
2. Memories Of A Child
3. Eternally Not Yours
4. Beguiling Masks
5. Grey Masses
6. My Blood
7. Ravenous
8. Secrets
9. In These Rooms
10. Paradise

Added: November 29th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Autumnal Blossom online
Hits: 1505
Language: english

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