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Samara Lubelski - Wavelength

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Artist: Samara Lubelski

Album: Wavelength

Label: De Stijl

Review date: Oct. 17, 2012

When Samara Lubelski sings, it’s as if her voice is only half heard. Her hazy, wispy vocals dissipate almost immediately upon leaving her mouth, wafting away like smoke. The weightlessness of Lubelski’s voice is in stark contrast to the music on Wavelength, her sixth solo release. If Lubelski the singer is ethereal, as a composer and arranger she’s far more anchored to the earth. The dozen tracks that make up Wavelength are pretty straightforward pop songs, with linear trajectories and easygoing hooks. Lubelski’s solo albums have never simply been the psychedelic folk that everyone seems to expect her to make. At this point, it’s tough call Wavelength a surprise in that regard, but the folk influence here is less evident than ever before.

Though Lubelski’s best known as a violinist, Wavelength features the instrument sparingly. It’s much more a guitar album, the violin forced to the outer edges of the songs, most often the provider of ornament instead of backbone. The chiming channeling of Sonic Youth on tracks like “The Nice Price” isn’t exactly out of the blue: Lubelski’s spent time over the past few years playing with Thurston Moore, and Steve Shelley (never hard to spot) reprises his role as Lubelski’s dummer. The late ’60s California vibe is a more unexpected presence on the disc, from the jangly guitar of “Jammage Cruiser” to the laid back shuffle of “Hang of Summer.” Across the album’s changing tones and varied instrumentation, Lubelski’s voice is the one constant. Her hushed delivery, more than a whisper, but not by much, changes little whether she’s singing over Moritz Finkbeiner’s peaceful pianet on “Run Out Arcade,” the rolling strum and plaintive drone of “Astral House, the Jokers Scene,” or the distorted guitar interplay of the album’s title track.

It’s a testament to Lubelski that Wavelength sounds so effortless. Were the album a debut, it’d probably make bigger waves, but as another Samara Lubelski album, it’s probably not going to be viewed as a watershed moment. Even Lubelski’s most direct work isn’t very insistent, and the album’s best songs aren’t the sort to turn heads. But if you’re at all amenable to what she does, you won’t be disappointed. This soft singing songstress makes music that speaks with a calm confidence, and, save for Lubelski’s voice, Wavelength doesn’t often waver.

By Adam Strohm

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