Avia Gardner is the name created for a nameless woman in a photograph. Musicians Mitchell Akiyama and Jenna Robertson found the old photograph with the woman in it and concocted a series of songs about her, starting with a single track that was featured on the Intr.Version compilation Saturday Morning Empires (which features some other great exclusive tracks as well). More Than Tongue Can Tell is the true debut release from the duo (with the help of some friends), and it's a seven song, half-hour journey through fractured instrumentation and song.
Akiyama is a very busy artist, having released not only Small Explosions That Are Yours To Keep earlier this year under his own name, but also the recent Dead Letters To Lost Friends as one half of Desormais with Tony Boggs/Joshua Treble (who contributes a couple remixes to this short releases). The opening, album-titled "More Than Tongue Can Tell" is actually one of the standouts on the entire album, starting out with filtered piano and vocals from Robertson before some skittery beats, horns, and washing layers of noise turn the track from parlor song into an electronic jazz whiteout.
The rest of the release isn't quite as successful at blending the different styles together. "Oceans Of Almost Rushing" is another outstanding piece with deconstructed elements clanging around at full speed that suddenly drop off to reveal delicate structures, while "If You Lose The Key, Throw Away The House" is about as straightforward as they come, a sultry slow-burner with live drums and saxophone. Elsewhere, Robertson lets her dramatic vocals get wrapped up with fairly standard sounds, and the result (at least on "Waiting Wonder") sounds like Renaissance Festival versus the glitch, as if the two don't really fit together. Both versions of "Dread And Dreaming" start out with some field-recording and strings, then drift off into more acoustic and organic second halves that seem to highlight one another well. As a whole, the release feels like a true debut, with some great tracks offset with a couple that sound like an artist still trying to figure a few things out.