The current moment calls for a daily ability to let go of what’s out of our control and focus on what we can. The scrap-wood park bench you never finished. The short story about a road trip across an imagined, virtual space. The food delivered to someone half a mile away who may be finding herself in a radically different set of circumstances than you. This is a time to amplify the nearly silent, to render the grandiose out of the commonplace, to magnify the seemingly insignificant.
Inadvertently or otherwise, there have already been a number of record releases this year that provide perfect soundtracks for this productive disquiet many of us may be experiencing, J Carter’s Rejoice and LEYA’s Flood Dream among them. But if those records’ darker edges sometimes feel overwhelming, Natalie Chami’s (aka TALsounds) Acquiesce may be the perfect sonic massage, a gentle touch not unlike the music of Joanna Brouk or Ashram-era Alice Coltrane. This is music that can hold its own against the background but deserves an immersion.
Chami, with years of classical choral training and a career teaching at ChiArts, is surprisingly of the moment as a performer. Her purpose always seems to be not so much a calculated push toward a final product, but what the music is doing as she plays it, and right now, having that kind of focus is crucial to basic survival. Like her other albums, Acquiesce derives it sounds from numerous synthesizers and voice, the latter an instrument that seems to focus on the sound itself as much as what she might be saying. But unlike most of those records, this is not a single take, as vocal layers were added later after performances were edited.
There is also a surrender to serenity running throughout. “Conveyer”, for example is just under two minutes of a repeated phrase that grows in volume before becoming a cushion for melodic tendrils and droney enunciations. It’s jubilant in its undeniability. “Hermit” involves her voice as reverb-drenched whisper, a space where “S” sounds float among an undulating layer of synths like wind tussling wildflowers. The final and longest track, “No Restoring” is the sound of a hard-won peace. Like much of Italian composer/percussionist Lino Capra Vaccina’s work, it can seem as if it’s still playing long after it’s ended, as it blends in with whatever music your environment may already be supplying.
It’s incredible how thematically cohesive a statement this record is, especially because it was recorded over a year. The music may pre-date the pandemic, but it’s a necessary release right now. Acquiesce reminds anyone willing to spend a little time with it just how important it is to notice how brief moments of confidence or peace can unfurl in real-time, forming solid ground for us to walk forward. Indeed, there is no restoring, only re-inventing.