Sarah Neufeld – The Ridge (Album Review)

Sarah Neufeld – The Ridge (Album Review)

From Montreal, Canada, Sarah Neufeld may be known best as a member of Indie Rock band Arcade Fire, but is an extremely accomplished composer and violinist in her own right. In her career, she has shown to have a talent for textures not only in the classical genre of music but in Indie Rock, Contemporary, Electro-Acoustic, and Avant Folk music. Inspired to play the instrument at a young age, she first began developing formal solo violin pieces in 2011, however, she has always composed and experimented informally since the beginning. Professionally, Neufeld has played on all four of Arcade Fire’s studio albums, co-founded Contemporary instrumental group Bell Orchestre in 2002, and, as of 2013, released her solo album Hero Brother.

The solo endeavor found Neufeld playing in numerous locations that brought about a unique acoustic sound that encompassed “small touches of wordless vocalizations, harmonium and piano supplant the violin in a few places.” Collaborating with Arcade Fire bandmate Colin Stetson in 2015, they put out the universally acclaimed album Never Were the Way She Was. Now, as of February 26, 2016, Neufeld returns with her sophomore solo album, entitled The Ridge. Working with Arcade Fire drummer Jeremy Gara, The Ridge is an album that focuses on Neufeld’s vocalizations along with her violin playing. With that said, it is an album that embodies a new sound, different from any other work Neufeld has ever released or composed.

The first piece off of The Ridge is single and title track that is truly a perfect composition, beginning with what sounds like a whole orchestra playing softly in the distance. The track then gains momentum, in enters steady drums beats and cymbals crashing before Neufeld enters on a soloing violin. One cannot help but feel like they are in the midst of nature, being swept away into a peaceful breeze throughout the song as Neufeld’s vocal is reminiscent of Enya with mesmerizing soaring tones. Towards the end of the track, Neufeld again comes on with a beautifully haunting singing solo that mixes the violin, cymbals, and drums all together.

Next, “We’ve Got A Lot” starts off with a steady upbeat drum solo before what sounds like dueling violins. This piece features even more vocalizations that adds to the richness and harmonious nature of the composition. Here Neufeld sings lyrics in her uniquely soprano voice prior to the songs conclusion for a magical listen. She then begins “They All Came Down” with an enchanting vocal performance with a soundscape in the back that is almost like an old Hollywood cinematic film. Starting with a solo, string picking violin, “The Glow” quickly speeds up, as does the picking. The song grows at points where an electronic sounding drum hits a few times throughout, adding a modern day sound. Progressing further, cymbals and a steady drum beat come in to create a futurist Alternative sound that is unique, giving a feel of heading into outer space. Truly unconventional, the song will take the listener on a journey with a traditional and modern feel.

A solo violin begins the piece “Chase That Bright and Burning” before a repetitive beat and Neufeld’s singing, that is soothing as well as upbeat. The background is calming, but is layered with a diverse amount of different Electronica small-sounding bites for a unique listen. Bringing on a beautiful, traditional style, “A Long Awaited Scar” will take the listener on a visual journey of being at a symphony. Tranquil, it has a constant tempo at times, until, slowly, a drum beat is heard in the mix. From the middle of the piece, a solo violin is played at a fast-paced repetitive style before a single steady drumbeat and Neufeld’s voice. One cannot help but think they hear the sound of the ocean waves layered in the backdrop of of the track and it slowly fades back into a solo violin.

With a fast playing solo violin beginning the “From Our Animal,” the song creates the feeling of being chased. As the violin plays fast and then slow, off and on, it truly showcases Neufeld’s talent as a composer and violinist. Add some almost howling singing and this last album offering is hauntingly exquisite. The Ridge concludes with “Where The Light Comes In,” which features stunning and delicate violin plays. As the piece builds, the background adds a slight futuristic tone, ending with the listener wanting more.

If there is one thing The Ridge proves, it is that Neufeld’s talent is vast. In addition, no two pieces sound the same on the record. Gara on drums adds depth to her compositions, helping create a new and enchanting sound no one has ever heard from her previous work. With The Ridge, she shows the ability to compose a mixture of traditional with futuristic, making for a beautiful listen. Neufeld, unquestionably, is an excellent violinist and composer, but now fans can see she is much more than that. CrypticRock gives The Ridge 4 out of 5 stars.

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Alexis Coleman
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