Thalia Zedek Band – Eve

Thalia Zedek Band - Eve

Thalia Zedek Band – Eve

Since 2001’s still impressive Been Here And Gone began her solo journey, after preceding pioneering years in Dangerous Birds, Uzi, Live Skull and – of course – Come, Thalia Zedek hasn’t made records with ease of listening as the priority.  At the heart of them all has been her fusion of indefectible gutsiness and unbreakable yearning that is inscrutably important but not always straightforward to love.  Zedek’s position almost has a skewed kinship to the infamous quote about Leonard Cohen circa 1984’s Various Positions, from a bemused record label executive; “We know you’re great, but we don’t know if you’re any good.”

Some of the distance between her raw songwriting and its digestible absorption can be put down to the rustically-framed yet electrically-driven arrangements that Zedek and her semi-regular accomplices (which include, amongst others, David Michael Curry on viola and Mel Lederman on piano) have consistently deployed since 2004’s Trust Not Those In Whom Without Some Touch Of Madness.  Neither stripped-down nor intricately crafted, sometimes Zedek’s solo-ensemble recordings have lacked a little clarity in bringing her compositional mood swings into sharper dynamic focus.  Following on though from 2014’s more tightly-scripted and well-measured mini-album, Six, this newly-released full-length finds Zedek’s compositions captured in a more up-close, more direct and more personal light.  This isn’t to say that Eve radically tips over the musical tropes of the last fifteen or so years but its subtle reshifting does get us nearer to what makes Zedek still so indefinably special beneath it all.

The opening “Afloat” (revisited from its previous Six incarnation) is perhaps a good pre-summary of what unfurls across one of Zedek’s strongest solo suites to date.  Veering between being intimate and rousing, this inaugurating epic recalls the overlooked ornate corners buried within Come’s eclectic guest-filled Near Life Experience as well as shades of the Dirty Three’s Horse Stories.  In its wake, Zedek and her able accomplices divide Eve into warmly downcast settings and stirring rockier terrain.  In the latter respect, it’s the stomping gypsy-folk-rock of “Walking In Time” that sticks out the most, closely followed by the Patti Smith-meets-Fear-era-John Cale infused crescendo-building of “360°” and “Northwest Branch”.  But it’s in the former areas that Eve truly excels with emotionally engaging gravitas.  Hence, the gently gorgeous “You Will Wake” does indeed summon the spirit of Leonard Cohen (in his early-‘70s pre-Phil Spector/pre-synth baroque-folk mode); the nocturnally prowling “Not Farewell” magnifies Zedek’s gift for heart-string-tugging with strung-out hints of Nick Cave’s Push The Sky Away; and the largely-unplugged closing “All I Need” could be her most devastatingly-unguarded transcendental love song to date.

Ultimately, Eve is still quite a tough spin for the uninitiated but it does find Thalia Zedek simultaneously looking deeper inside and reaching outwards more generously than she’s done for some time.  Not a career-changing collection as such but a quietly redemptive revelation that satisfyingly sustains its author’s veteran status.

Thrill Jockey