Sarah Neufeld is a Canadian violinist and composer best known for her previous work with indie-art rock band, Arcade Fire. The Ridge is her second full length solo album and has been greatly anticipated by many. Having never listened to music like this in any great detail before I was unsure of what to expect so I took my time listening to each track, really listening; trying to take in the emotion and soul of each song as it played.
The opening (and also title) track, 'The Ridge', really sets the pace for the whole album making it a great way to introduce you to Sarah’s work. It begins very simplistically, only violin playing. Then, the drums kick in, quickly adding loud, crashing cymbals as the synth joins them. There is so much going on that when the vocals appear you are unsure as to whether they are another sound effect or a real voice. After this intense build up comes an explosive interlude of sounds, co-ordinated yet emitting chaos. As the song winds down, each instrument drops out gradually as we come full circle, back to the solo violin.
This intense and urgent sound is mimicked in 'Chase The Bright'. With its tribal like vocal calls, the pace of the song stays the same as other sounds build up around the violin creating a jungle like feel. I envisage someone running through the Amazon, rain falling lightly as they attempt to escape a coming storm. Sarah’s ability to create an atmosphere that can be felt through the music, creating a very real experience for the listener, is beyond impressive.
Whilst there is the obvious Classical vibe to her music, Sarah manages to explores a range of styles over the eight tracks. For example, 'We’ve Got A Lot' has a very Folky feel to it. The violin has quite a traditional sound and the clapping style of the drum beat makes the song reminiscent of a Celtic jig. Matched with Sarah’s ethereal vocals it wouldn’t be out of place at Celtic Connections. On the other hand, you have 'They All Came Down', the shortest track on the record at one minute thirty one. It consists only of vocals and synth creating a sound which can only really be described as Electro. I believe that these songs show Sarah’s ability to successfully cross over genres and are a great testament to her talent as both a musician and a composer.
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed this album as a whole, I was really drawn to one of the longer tracks entitled 'The Glow'. Sarah uses a picking technique on her violin here which leads me to imagine rain slowly scattering over a dessert. The drums sound like thunder as they burst inconsistently in and out of the song, cymbals splashing like lightning. The two instruments build up, getting louder and more frantic until everything suddenly stops, a soft beat along with the synth play out until the end interrupted only once with choir like vocals before the track fades out for good.
This album is an excellent representation of Sarah’s amazing musicianship as well as her talent for creating imaginative and powerful images with very few words - a definitive victory.
The Ridge is available from amazon and iTunes.