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Ezra Feinberg: Soft Power review – trippy, bucolic and playfully minimal | Music


Ezra Feinberg: Soft Power review – trippy, bucolic and playfully minimal | Music

Contemporary album of the month

(Tonal Union)
Feinberg has moved from psychedelic rock to a hypnotic romanticism that invites us to share in its gently throbbing pulses and heart-tugging beauty

Fri 24 May 2024 03.30 EDT

Ezra Feinberg came to our attention around 20 years ago as the leader of the San Francisco-based collective Citay, whose woozy, Beach Boys-inspired explorations were central to a psychedelic indie scene that flourished in north California at the time. In recent years he’s moved to the other side of the States and is now a practising psychoanalyst in New York’s Hudson Valley. He still makes music – this is his third solo album – although the “rock” elements have been slowly excised from his vocabulary, leaving only a trippy, hypnotic romanticism that uses acoustic guitars, electric pianos, vibraphones, flutes, harps and soft synth drones.

Ezra Feinberg: Soft Power album cover. Photograph: Marc Alcock

Feinberg was a key contributor on the Arp album Zebra in 2018, and much of Soft Power (released 31 May) draws from the same spirit – therapeutic, ambient, playfully minimal. On the opening track, Future Sand, Feinberg plays folksy clawhammer guitar while flautist David Lackner soars over the top, reminiscent of the heart-tugging bucolic beauty of John Cameron and Harold McNair’s music for Kes. Pose Beams is a piece of gently throbbing minimalism, featuring like-minded drone musicians Robbie Lee and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. The Big Clock is an eight-minute kosmiche epic, featuring the processed vocals of the operatic soprano Britt Hewitt. Best of all might be the closing track, Get Some Rest, a lovely, pastoral piece in 6/8 where Mary Lattimore’s harp weaves seamlessly with Fender Rhodes, acoustic guitar and flute.

You could describe this as New Age, and it certainly shares much with the classier meditative music by the likes of Paul Horn, the Paul Winter Consort or the Windham Hill label. But, by omitting the vocals, the fuzz and the improvisatory freakouts from his psychedelic rock, Feinberg has somehow made his music more intense and focused than ever.

Also out this month

Crosspiece (released 30 May, Cherche Encore/Bandcamp) is a spartan duet between vocalist Theodora Laird and bassist Caius Williams, filled with creaky free-jazz freakouts and hypnotic bass guitar lines. Laird’s vocals switch between blank, post-punk observations, banshee howls and mezzo soprano gymnastics. Extraordinary and unique.

Orchestral Works (released 24 May, Decca) is a series of shivery, pensive miniatures from the Icelandic composer Gabríel Ólafs, recorded with the Reykjavik Orkestra, featuring new, widescreen arrangements of familiar melodies from his Lullabies for Piano and Cello, Solon Islandus and his solo piano works.

Foundling are a Berlin-based experimental outfit led by Canadian singer Erin Lang, and their new album Equilibria is an intriguing mix of dream pop, junkyard minimalism and glittery ECM jazz, pitched somewhere between Julia Holter and David Sylvian.

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