Music

Alessi's Ark: Time Travel

Andy Johnson

The second album by indie-folk artist Alessi's Ark feels like a work-in-progress - but then so is the songstress herself.


Alessi's Ark

Time Travel

Label: Bella Union
US Release Date: 2011-09-27
UK Release Date: 2011-04-25
Amazon
iTunes

At 16, Alessi Laurent-Marke left school in London to pursue a career in music and made a fateful promise to her parents – if she hadn't found success within a year, she would admit defeat and return to education. At 17, her intense gigging and self-promotion had paid off, with her acoustic guitar playing and disarmingly breathy voice attracting attention to her gentle folk. Signed to a major, she was flown out to Omaha, Nebraska, and recorded a well-received debut with her dream producer, Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes. There are worse ways to start out.

We find Alessi's Ark further down the road now, a little wiser and more experienced. Yes, Laurent-Marke still has her wistful acoustic tunes and youthful charm – she is still only 21 – but the release of Time Travel represents a slight change of attitude and priorities. In contrast to the fairytale major label sweep of first album Notes from the Treehouse, this second effort is released on the small-but-successful indie label Bella Union. Announced last year and christened with the Soul Proprietor EP, this shift is a wise move because it better reflects not only Laurent-Marke's tender folk sound but also her musical aspirations; Time Travel is a cautious step forward in a singer-songwriter's development, not a world-conquering comeback.

True to this, Laurent-Marke's working is clearly visible in the margins of many of these songs. Shaky opener “Kind of Man” sees the singer venture into folk-country, but sounds more like a sketchy proof of concept than a fully-fledged tune. A cover of Lesley Gore's 1964 teen pop hit “Maybe I Know” is further evidence of Laurent-Marke's remaining naivety, its schoolyard lyrics clashing awkwardly with her otherwise growing maturity. Later comes “The Robot”, a similarly pretty but somewhat cloying example of the now familiar man/machine comparison love song which hardly breaks the mould.

Elsewhere there are hints, however, of the heights that Laurent-Marke has every right and reason to aspire to. “On the Plains” is the strongest track here, a showcase for her flair for vocal melody and a careful merger between some mild rock elements on the one hand and dainty flute work on the other. Another highlight is delicate instrumental “The Fever”, which provides a mid-album interlude demonstrating growing compositional skills and even recalls “After the Ordeal”, which used acoustics and piano just as serenely and served Genesis well in 1973.

As it transpires, Time Travel is an appropriate title for a record which sees Laurent-Marke still tied to her naïve and inexperienced beginnings but at the same time looking forward to having ever more control over her significant talents. If the songs often veer more to the former than to the latter, it is largely a reflection of the lessons Alessi's Ark has yet to learn. While they are clearly the work of a developing artist, these precocious but consistently pleasant songs are also a testament to her natural talent and hard graft. This second album is no magnum opus, but it leaves Laurent-Marke plenty of time to create one.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.

Music

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."

Music

David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.

Music

On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Music

Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Music

Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.

Music

Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.