By John Armstrong, Rock At Night Manchester
There is a thing where every single-voice single-guitar is described as folk; and as Mose Allison said “all music is folk music, I ain’t never heard any made by a horse”, and that is indeed how Courtney Visser has been performing on five continents around the world, as a stand alone solo performer, yet this EP is a full band recording and has more in common with Joni Mitchell in her Hejira phase. Remarkable for the tightness and restraint of the players, there is no ego-led struggle for dominance, all players allow each piece to shine as a unified whole. A lesson in teamwork. And above this soars Courtney Visser’s voice, like the three distant birds on the minimalist sleeve. Full, expressive and possessing a warmth of personality with a maturity of delivery beyond her years. The voice is the main instrument on display here, perfectly assisted by the band. They create multiple textures and harmonic supporting structures, a many dimensioned shape for the vocals to entwine and weave around.
It is surprisingly that this is a first release, being already stylistically formed into a personal sound drawn from many different submerged influences, in Courtney Visser’s own words during (due to lockdown) a virtual chat : “I’m not really sure where I fit in yet – I’m in love with artists like The Unthanks, Elbow, Regina Spektor, The Swell Season, Peter Gabriel (New Blood is a bloody beautiful album), but I don’t necessarily sound like any of those artists! I love textures and harmony and a lot of more cinematic sounds. When I write my ideas are a broader idea of the shape of the music and how it should feel in moments and the stories I want to tell. Jon Gomm inspired me to try different guitar tunings, and recently Erik Whittacre too for his use of harmony and dissonance… and seven Jacob Collier’s ‘In The Real Early Morning’ for the amount of space it uses, how much it breathes.” And the music does breathe.
Sudden Movements; building slowly from a sparse constant repeating acoustic guitar line, gradually it erupts with controlled restraint, mimicking life’s overwhelming internal and external forces, it dies back only to grow again, organic and pulsing with life on the brink of panic.
City Song; gentle acoustic guitar leads us into a descending lilting riff, evolving into a love song to the adopted home of Leeds – far removed from South Africa’s mountains and coast – expressing the gradual growth of affection for place and recognition of the facets of city living. The gradual accustoming of self to changed circumstances, including the inevitability of further change and the absorption of place into our very being.
Magpie; mystical and fantastical a song of mythical love and the literally star crossed lovers Vega and Antares, deftly delivered in an open to interpretation manner. An uplifting ascending piece encompassing space and distance, a plea for assistance and an end to longing.
Wanted; self empowerment and recognition of self worth abound in this rebuttal to insincere advances, the subdued electric guitar and shimmering organ glisten as does the exceptionally well executed key change in this vocal tour de force, entirely without needless warble or flashy delivery once more it is the whole aural feel that is important.
Moments; evolving from personal experience of the passage of time being far from constant and much more ‘in the eye of the beholder’; the rapid speeding, interminable slowness and sudden ‘concertinaing’ bringing distant points close together and the significance of fleeting short moments of human contact.
Moments CD, tracklist:
Available at: https://cbvmusic.bandcamp.com/album/moments-ep