written by gt slade
A decade after her triumphant "Bloom," Tasmin Archer is back with ON, an album I recommend without reservation.

Tasmin's voice folds into the delicate textures of a perfect musical soufflé. The lyrics appeal viscerally initially, seemingly too deep for this dense mind. Deeper exposure allows content to seep through. Luckily, this CD coaxes more plays out of one, since it seems all too brief, ending quickly.
I am not complaining. Brevity is admirable.
Some might wonder why Ms Archer chose "Hello" as the last song and begins with "Take Care." That's life. For "Take Care" establishes the musical tone with an eerily mystical arrangement from co-creator John Hughes. When Tasmin warns, "Be careful how you spread your views," I don't take it personally. Perhaps I should.
"Sedan" is a declaration of independence, or so I believe. Far from "Drive My Car," yet as rewarding a journey. The song is so pretty, you forget the singer is setting your agenda.
"Complaints" is my favourite – one of them. Beautiful music tangles with a serious lyric over relationship highs and lows. As with most of the album, Tasmin drops profound lines like, "If I could just remember where I need to pin the blame." The lyrics are very relaxing and sensuous, the tune gorgeous.
My mantra used to be, "Every time I want it someone else has got it before me." These days, not so much. Deft lyrics compliment a zippy beat on "Effect is Monotony." While I am commercially clueless, the song seems to have hit potential.
Turns out it will be released singly as "Every Time I Want It." [I'd say backed with "Complaints," but this is the Twenty-First Century, no more seven-inch vinyl. A stand-alone version of "Monotony" might include more agressive percussion because the kids like drum pummeling. Who am I kidding? I like the drums. Think Kenny Jones.]
"Violence" showcases Archer's vocal pyrotechniques, with a suitably subdued accompaniment. There is wisdom within. She's not singing about fisticuffs. I would love to hear a stripped-down or even a capella version of this piece.
"A Day Will Come" has held me in awe since I heard it last year. "Who's winning, everyones lost." Love the lyrics, the tune and the interplay between the percussion and the rather plaintive keyboards.
In "Emergency," dissonance highlights another winning arrangement, evoking disorientation. I enjoy dissonance even more than drumming.
I see myself in "A Letter To God," to my discomfort. No, I'm not God! (If I were, would I admit it?) Besides, this is no religious song, more an examination of what constitutes success, what it means to be "somebody." Perhaps that is the modern religion – celebrity worship. Great music addressing a subject always drifting through my mind. Tasmin's treatment is deep, provocative, liberating.
"You're reaching out when it's inside." Why "Hope" when everything you need to do is there in you. Reinforcing some of the almighty themes and preparing you for
"Hello," which is filled with great musical effects that make one ask, "Was that the disc or are the neighbors freaking out?" It was the CD, although one can never be sure about the neighbors. Tasmin would "rather be lucky than brave." Luck is vastly underrated, so it's good to see it recognised. Ain't no Lionel; this is pure Tasmin. And as I've suggested, the song leaves you hungering for more.
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These are serious songs. Overall, the rhymes are far better than we deserve, certainly better than what we accept. Tasmin never writes down to us. Brilliant lyrics backed beautifully. Bruce Thomas's tasty bass reflects a commitment to genuine instrumentation. Pay close attention to his licks on "Emergency."

I cannot say enough about John Hughes, who plays all the other instruments. Listen on headphones to appreciate how powerfully his multifaceted arrangements provide the perfect union for Tasmin's artistry.

The drawings are by Tasmin Archer. I'm no art critic, or much of a music critic, come to that. So I've included the artwork. I toyed with the idea that since there are ten pictures and ten songs, that must be significant. Next I'll be playing CDs backwards listening for hidden messages.

This was a tough album to review and I'm not sure I was up to it. I'd go back and listen to a song for clarification, forget why, and let the music play on. Fans will wonder, "Is it like 'Bloom?'" Yes and no. The style is vaguely similar, but different. Tasmin's unique musical vision has, if anything, become more polished on ON, with the individually-crafted songs comprising a unified work.

I do not assign ratings like stars or letters. If I did, ON would exceed their limits, like my blood pressure. A++, twelve out of ten. What I'm saying is, "Buy the album." You need not accept my word for it nowadays, making this essay less necessary. Sample the songs and hear for yourself. In the words of P!nk, I believe, "Just do it!"  gold dot

[10; 40'29; Quiverdisc, 2006;
Produced by John Hughes.]

For acquisition information, please visit Tasmin Archer.com.

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©2006 gt slade

14 July 2006