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Character

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Album Review

Character is cellist and composer Julia Kent's third solo album. Like its predecessors, 2007's Delay and 2011's Green and Grey, she places her cello in concert with an array of digital loops and field recordings. But aside from her unmistakable tone and playing style, Character has little in common with its siblings. For starters, for the first time she recorded alone in her home studio. The music on those earlier recordings reflected the outer world in various ways: the field recordings on Delay were those of airports; on Green and Grey the sounds of the natural world. Here, incorporated sounds reflect the solitary nature of the creative process: a single match lighting, the scratch of a pen writing on paper, a detuned autoharp; even the sound of wineglasses seems more like accidental movement in a cupboard than a celebratory clink. The theme on this album muses on the cycles of life and how little control the individual possesses. (Her use of loops offers concrete examples: if a "mistake" is made, new, previously unconsidered possibilities emerge.) Opener "Ebb" is an invitation to step back from motion, toward stillness. It is seemingly mournful, but that's misleading. The acceptance and willingness of slowing create a foundation for the album to go deeper. It's true that the intro to "Transportation," with its frenetic plucked strings, and the seemingly forceful pulse of the cello in "Tourbillon" offer seeming outward motion, but they are actually reflections of the tensions that occur as the reality of an individual's inner world meets her perceived ones. In the brooding "Kingdom," tape manipulation, an echoing backdrop, and dark, even paranoid ambient sounds create dark sonorities that meet one another simultaneously from the interior of the instrument. The sheer loneliness of "Intent," with its juxtaposition of the autoharp, drum loops, and deep droning cello, is a haunting poetic on the many timbral voices that self-reflection speaks with. "Only Child" and closer "Nina and Oscar" feel deliberately unfinished, as if their resonance would reveal more in time. Character may not carry the blissed-out expressions Kent's earlier records did. But it is here that she speaks most poignantly of loneliness, fear, desire, life's richness, and more — by creating a listening experience of nearly cavernous depth and poetic beauty.

Customer Reviews

Headphone Commute Review

I’ve been obsessed with cello lately. Enough that I’m actually considering taking some lessons. I’ve been playing the piano ever since I can remember. But the longer I study my favorite instrument, the deeper I understand its percussive nature, and need some pulled and trembling strings. I’ve played the double bass before (in high school orchestra), and till this day something draws me towards the lower register of all bowed sounds. Thankfully, until my desire to break the bank and buy the instrument subsides, I have all this music to weave my dreams to.

Julia Kent is a Canadian born, NYC based cellist who came on the scene in 2007, with her debut solo album, Delay, released on Shayo records. Four years later she followed up with Green And Grey on Important Records. I first became familiar with Kent’s sound when she performed at the Unsound Festival in New York in 2012. This year Kent gets picked up by the lovely Leaf Label, already home to many of my favorite artists, such as Susumu Yokota, Murcof, Triosk, Sutekh, Vladislav Delay, Roll The Dice, and Efterklang.

Appropriately titled, Character, is a retrospective album. Layered and looped cello strings are complimented by organic found sounds, minimal electronic percussion and an occasional piano notes. The soundscape of Character is minor in chord progression, major in cinematic undertones, and neutral in acceptance of things as they are. There is a certain meditative aspect to the music, which at times rejects its nature and picks up in pace, only to stop chasing, catching its breath, and subsiding again. The pieces become a soundtrack to our daily trepidation, perhaps in facing the fictitious story that we live.

“I ended up thinking about the process of life,” explains Kent. “How sometimes a narrative in fiction is meant to mirror the chronology of human life, and how our lives, in a way, can resemble works of fiction, but without the possibility of controlling the outcome the way an author can.”

Recording alone in her studio, Kent is faced with a reflective narrative – a darkness audible in “Kingdom”, a sadness on an “Only Child”, a resolution and assertion on “Intent”. The approach to looped recordings continues to reveal Kent’s pleasure in recurring patterns. The subtle lapse becomes the core in repetition, embracing lovely accidents along the way. This, too, can be reflected in our lives. Sometimes mistakes are nothing more than predetermined outcomes, and expectations are the only rein. Recommended for fans of Danny Norbury, Greg Haines, Zoë Keating, Richard Skelton and of course, Hildur Guðnadóttir.

organic

When i talk about good music,her name comes up every time.I would love to come 2gether on a trac with her one day,one day.

Biography

Born: Vancouver, British Columbia, Cana

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Julia Kent is a New York City-based cellist, composer, recording artist, and in-demand session musician. A Canadian native, Kent was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. She studied cello at Indiana University in Bloomington. Upon completion of her studies, she relocated to New York City. She was an original member of the pioneering rock & roll cello trio Rasputina, with Melora Creager and Agnieszka Rybska. Donning Victorian-era costumes and performing their own brand of gothic chamber...
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Character, Julia Kent
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