Pamelia Kurstin - Thinking Out Loud
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Pamelia Kurstin
Thinking Out Loud

According to the Tzadik label website, Pamelia Kurstin is a 'rock star, rollerskater, party girl, classical virtuoso, jazz bassist and more.' For the past eight or so years, though, she's built a name as a master of the theremin. Using that instrument, she's played and recorded with everyone from David Byrne to Bela Fleck and The Fleckstones and is a member of the group Barbez (who released their debut album Insignificance last year). Although she released a CD with her then-husband clear back in 2000 as one half of The Kurstins, Thinking Out Loud is her debut release and it's a doozy of weirdness.

Essentially, this seven song album is comprised of nothing more than Kurstin playing theremin and using a looping pedal and some minor effects for variation. There are a couple, shorter sketches for piano mixed in to help break things up, but it's the eerie instrument that rules the day. Largely comprised of tracks recorded from various solo live performances last year, there's actually a decent amount of variety considering the instrument is largely relegated to the ephemera category in most peoples minds. On the opening track "London," long, wisping curls of melancholy tones sound like the voices of spirits of spectres. Towards the end of the track, more pinched and modulated voices enter the mix and ratchet the uneasy mood even more before everything fades out.

"Edinburgh" is even more strange, with a loop of what sounds like plucked bass notes that repeats under water-droplet filtered pings and an overdriven scorch of noise that threatens to tear the track apart. About halfway through, a deep, grimey bass rises out of the mix before the high singing voices come back again and get shattered into 8-bit digital garble. In terms of sheer concise songwriting, the best track on the entire release is probably the five-minute "Barrow In Furness," which quickly loops up some string-sounding tones before pinching and tweaking them into an odd chorus as a marching bass tone and a melodic singing melody give the track an almost rabbit-hole jazz feel.

As it stands, much of Thinking Out Loud works similarly in that tracks build rather slowly out of repeating phrases before having other melodies and phrases piled on top of them. Most of the songs take some time to get going, usually getting to the most interesting part at least one-half or two-thirds of the way through the running length of the piece. This is an album that's more about the journey than the destination, and while it doesn't always deliver up to its full potential, it's definitely worth seeking out if you're into something off the beaten path.

rating: 6.510
Aaron Coleman 2007-06-21 20:50:24