wears the trousers magazine


tallulah rendall: libellus (2009)
August 6, 2009, 10:20 am
Filed under: album, review, video | Tags: , , ,

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Tallulah Rendall
Libellus •••½
Transducer 

When album opener ‘Time Fades’ starts on Tallulah Rendall’s debut album, Libellus, it prompts the realisation that electric guitars have been in shockingly short supply during the current electro-pop climate, and they sound both strange and wonderful at the same time. There could be many reasons for their use – Rendall started to write the album in 2006, when boys (and girls) with guitars were the rule rather than the exception. Or, it could be that she wishes to flout current convention and stick to what feels true to her as an artist. Either way, if not quite marking the return of the guitar, it feels more like a renewal than an anachronism, and it appears many times across the length of the album. Perhaps it is also a consequence of Rendall’s list of influences, which include Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, Suzanne Vega and Queens Of The Stone Age, some of whose work is evident on Libellus.

Even though a three-chord riff underpins ‘Time Fades’, it is in no way reductive or simplistic sounding. Marius de Vries joins Rendall and Matt Ingram on production duties, adding his distinctive synth-led electronic flourishes to proceedings. The song builds softly, throbbing with guitar and bass until the smooth glissandos of the chorus break in sonic waves, causing hairs to prick on necks. But ‘Black Seagull’ is Libellus’s masterstroke. The guitar-swagger of this six and a half minute epic cuts a sensual cloth under Rendall’s brittle falsetto, illustrating as it does that her writing chops are to be taken seriously – a glorious slow-builder that blasts the guitar-drenched chorus out towards the end, it wears its Jeff Buckley influence proudly. ‘Lay Me Down’ also lifts the Buckley sonic palette straight from Grace, all guitar arpeggios, close-up intimate vocals and bluesy piano with a pretty and understated chorus with warm “ooh”-ing backing vocals.

‘Only You’ is one of those songs that slowly reels the listener in, beginning with sparse guitar and syncopated drumming. The drama slowly builds up until waves of guitar suddenly crash tsunami-like into the chorus with a devilish guitar riff (courtesy of The Satellites). ‘Lost In The Morning’ has perhaps one of the most immediate melodies here, encroaching into Natalie Imbruglia-esque pop territory and sounding like a more erudite track from White Lilies Island. The mid-tempo balladry continues for much of the album’s second half, which is a shame considering the rock-heavy start. ‘Hope Tonight’s relentless drum march makes the sparse, ethereal chorus all the prettier, while ‘Here By Me’ proves that Rendall can do stately, elegiac ballads full of mourning and tenderness, underpinned delicately with piano, cello and soft backing vocals. ‘Time Away’ contains possibly the album’s best vocal performance, Rendall’s voice sounding rich and warm on this Beth Orton-sounding track full of cello solos and lovely chorus key changes.

‘Wake Up’, a slightly saccharine song that doesn’t quite fit here, and ‘Rest In Peace’, a heartfelt elegy to her grandmother, bring the album to a quiet, subdued close. Although its second half isn’t cut from the same high quality cloth as the first, Libellus is still a distinctive album by an incredibly self-possessed artist who, despite imitating others at times, chooses only the best musical references to pilfer from, and by proxy has fashioned an album of well-crafted and expertly produced songs.

P. Viktor
UK release date: 01/06/09; www.myspace.com/tallulahrendall

 

‘Time Fades’ [live]

Tallulah talks about Libellus

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