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Shadow Puppeteer

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Album Review

Perhaps this is the work of a lifetime spent in front of a microphone. Perhaps it is merely another stopping place on the journey, or a report from the outlands and there will be more. But whatever it is, Shadow Puppeteer is the final step into the open for Julie Tippetts. After 30 years in the business and over 25 with her husband and collaborator, Keith, she has stepped out into the open completely naked (solo — all instruments and voices were hers) and created a dream work for the ages. Shadow Puppeteer is a concept work in that there is a narrative that is revealed inside the improvisations and compositions. The protagonist is Esha, the woman observed, sung about, and spoken through. Tippetts took three years to unfold her story, using a friend's eight-track studio to record every temple bell, drum, recorder, and of course, vocal, in stack upon stack until the project revealed itself. Tippetts uses her voice in ways that are not usually associated with the human voice. Though she sings beautifully, her fierce, pioneering vocal techniques, all of them based on improvisations, point here toward composition, a shaping of sound and reaction to it that is poetic, deep, multi-dimensional, and metalinguistic. This is a language story without words, only utterances and created speech that communicate from both the center of the body and the heart. This story of Esha is a story of heart and trial and transcendence. It is revealed experientially through Tippetts living the work as she records it. It comes out of the speakers whole, raw, full of edges and angles, and somehow perfectly formed. These sounds, then, are indeed those of the human voice and its delineations inside one being as it attempts to communicate with a host of others in song. Shadow Puppeteer illustrates in striking unspeakable beauty, with the tenderness of the wolves, the blinding darkness that is the essence of the creative process.

Shadow Puppeteer, Julie Tippetts
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