It’s 1999 and a pixie-faced singer, almost celestial in her very being, delivers, with the support of the brilliant compatriots in her band, one of the most intelligent and engaging three and a half minute love songs in recent memory. The song is attached to the soundtrack of a popular romantic comedy and suddenly the singer and her band are launched into the upper stratosphere of pop music, turning up on talk shows and finding their video topping VH1’s play list.
Leigh Nash may never quite escape that moment, frozen in the collective consciousness of mass audiences, as a capsule of what Nash and her former band, Sixpence None the Richer, had to offer the pop music world. Yet, as anyone who had followed Sixpence None the Richer from their genesis in the early ’90s knew, the band was a complex and ultimately underappreciated animal capable of deeply affecting, moody rock songs with layered guitars and image-filled lyrics as well as songs about, well…kissing beneath the milky twilight.
When the band went their separate ways in 2004, Nash took the logical next steps down a path that had started with guest work on others’ projects and released her own solo record, Blue on Blue in the summer of 2006. The next move down the creative trail has brought Nash, in the here and now, to be part of the collective that is Fauxliage. This grouping teams Nash with Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber, better known as the electronic pop duo Delerium. Nash had contributed on several occasions to recordings by the pair, so a more formal collaboration seems only natural.
Fauxliage, the band, is an intriguing idea. There are qualities in Nash’s voice that suggest a marriage with electronic-based textures would bring success and Leeb/Fulber have a reputation for creating complimentary treatments for female vocalists (they have previously worked with, among others, Sarah McLachlan and Emily Haines). In fact in press material, Leeb said, “It was a project created to always have female singers and Leigh has always been a personal favorite of mine.”
Fauxliage , the album seems proof of two things. Nash is a tremendously versatile talent and there are few genres or musical contexts in which her vocal presence would not shine; she is a truly transcendent vocalist. However, the results of the record also suggest Nash may never again reach the creative zenith she realized when paired with the incomparable songwriting of Sixpence guitarist Matt Slocum. The material on Fauxliage , in terms of song craft and production value, are a mixed bag consisting of more highs than lows but paling a bit in comparison to much of Nash’s previous work.
The tracks that work best do so because Leeb and Fulber have crafted a lovely backdrop of swirling sounds and ambient atmospheres with which to drape Nash’s vocals. One of the album’s standout cuts, “Draw My Life” opens with a dose of Nash, up front in the mix, surrounded by shimmering keyboards and subtly insistent acoustic guitars. As the keyboard lines descend and the rhythm section kicks in, the tune takes form and shape without forsaking the essential elements established in the song’s opening seconds. Another of the album’s highlights, “Let It Go” grows in dynamic and tunefulness as the track develops. The chorus is quite possibly the album’s best moment.
Occasionally, the production seems to include pop production cliches that detract from the overall feel of the track. For example, the instrumental “Magic” ends up coming off a bit New Age-y. While the track has nice moments, it seems suited more for some type of easy listening project. Tracks like “Someday the World” and “All Alone” have measures or passages, which might make the listener fear the album is about to veer off into dance-pop territory before the principal players bring things back to a place of strength.
Another place where the album falls a bit short is in its sequencing. After a grand total of nine original songs, Leeb and Fulber attach two bonus tracks, which are in fact the same track, “Rafe”, remixed by two separate artists, Gabin and Pacha. “Rafe” is the same song that falls seventh in the album’s track list. If you want to remix the cut and include it on the project, that’s fine, but it seems there should be a bit more separation rather than having three version of the same song within the span of five cuts.
Overall, though, the collaboration showcases some of the strengths of each participator and yields results, which should appeal to fans of several different styles and genres. Nash should continue to explore the avenues available to her and if Leeb and Fulber continue to refine their production to the point that it might seem completely free of elements that seem like concessions to fans of radio-friendly pop, their knack for atmospheric soundscapes will be all the more noticeable.