Detritus by Sarah Neufeld album review by Katie Tymochenko for Northern Transmissions

Paper Bag Records

8.5

Sarah Neufeld

Detritus

Originally known for her work in Arcade Fire, Sarah Neufeld’s solo projects consistently reflect the diverse and obscure talent she radiates as a multi-instrumentalist. While the violin is her instrument of choice, the way she exudes her voice on this album acts as an instrument in and of itself.

Her haunting harmonies blend seamlessly throughout all aspect of this album and create of body of work that is both sonically and visually captivating. The album dives into the atmospheric worlds of sonic exploration and searches to find the tonality and purpose of all the instruments used.

Beginning the album with “Stories,” Neufeld creates a cinematic experience throughout the record that continuously paints a scene to accompany her music. Without any lyrics on the album, her music must tell a story on its own or be vivid enough to allow the listener’s mind to explore. On “Stories,” the scene is set for a stormy night lost at sea. You can practically smell the salt in the air as the song’s dramatic vocals and Celtic influence creates an eerie sensation that eventually simmers throughout the rest of the album.

At times, the record seems more like a long-form film score rather than a regular LP. Epics like “Tumble Down The Undecided” start off with darker and mysterious undertones before escalating to a full-fledged battle cry. At over 9 minutes in length, the track only builds and builds to its enthusiastic finish without any pauses and moments of hesitation. Another cinematic endeavour on the album includes “Shed Your Dear Heart,” which highlights the album’s synth and percussion contributions. As with the previous track, intense themes of war or conflict seem to be the driving narrative throughout these songs as the album’s powerful moments only continue to build until its complicated conclusion.

With the latter half of the record illustrating large-scale sonic adventurers, Neufeld has decided to conclude the album on a more ambient and unobtrusive tone. Title track, “Detritus” never builds up to a large scale conclusion and instead takes a poetic approach to completing the story. The song’s slow intensity feels like a beating heartbeat fading away. It’s hard for listeners to gage where the track is headed and with its abrupt ending, the entire body of work concludes with a tranquil but sudden cliff hanger. On paper, the record’s end might seem unsatisfactory but Neufeld’s decisions throughout the album make complete sonic sense. While the story has been told, it still leaves space for future chapters to unfold.