One-time Vancouver Chamber Choir singer performs music from Fractography
Friday, January 6, 2011, 8pm, at the Western Front
(Doors at 8:30, show starts promptly at 9pm)
$15 at door, $12 in advance
Tickets at www.BrownPaperTickets.com
“Her ethereal voice and classically informed arrangements come together in experimental pop that’s both listenable and challenging” – Benjamin Boles, Now
Bowen Island’s Alicia Hansen made an auspicious debut in Eastern Canada earlier this year, earning a feature article in Toronto’s Now to preview her first ever solo show in the city.
Now, she’s returning to Vancouver to perform music from Fractography, the album that Now called “a strong collection of off-kilter piano pop that has a real shot at wider success.”
“Fractography” is defined as “the study of fracture surfaces of materials to determine the cause of failure.”
And by choosing this heavy metaphor as the title for her debut, Hansen prepares the listener for the hauntingly beautiful and disturbing work contained within.
Hansen, a Royal Conservatory grad and one-time professional singer with the Vancouver Chamber Choir, creates an eerie musical landscape marked by powerful piano hooks; chorus-like harmonies; plaintive vocals; complex, jazzy, piano chord progressions; and dissonant passages that feature dramatic singing over chaotic piano and electric guitar. The lyrics – deeply poetic and metaphorical – document the tortured relationships and mental anguish Hansen grappled with as she threw off the constraints of the classical world and sought to find her voice, musically. (It worked, by the way. Anyone who listens to the album will be relieved to hear that Hansen is feeling great these days.)
“In Armies” is about losing oneself in a relationship only to discover the emptiness left inside. “Alcoholic” not only speaks of but musically mimics the chaos of being involved with an addict. “Poison Tree” is about the emotional after effects of being involved with a philanderer. And “Fractograph” is about the slow erosion of self that led to Hansen’s darkest years battling anorexia. The guest musicians are all highly-esteemed veterans of B.C.’s avant garde music scene, including cellist Peggy Lee, bassist Tommy Babin, guitarist Ron Samworth and drummer Skye Brooks.
At times, the staccato jazz chords, dissonance, and aggressive electric guitar parts recall Veda Hille’s very early works – and Stephen Nikleva’s contributions to them – but Hansen cites P.J. Harvey, Joanna Newsom, and Bjork among the true inspirations behind her dark sound and atypical song structure. She also counts modern jazz artists like Keith Jarrett and Brad Meldau and darker classical composers like Stravinsky and Prokofiev among her influences.
Hansen grew up in Vancouver and began studying classical piano at age five, ultimately becoming an Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto. Then, enraptured by jazz, she earned a degree in jazz performance at Vancouver Community College. After countless years devoting herself to classical music, including a five-year stint as a professional chorister with the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Hansen realized she needed to embark on her own creative journey.
The result is Fractography, a deep and fearless exploration of the surface cracks in Hansen’s past that contributed to a “structural failure” of sorts – and a piece of work so profoundly lovely and unsettling that only an artist with Hansen’s chops could pull it off in all its complexity.