Artist/ Band: Helen Davey
Title: From Another Room
Label: Sound Vault Records
Year of Release: 2007
Offical Artist/ Band Link

The Review:

Australian born Helen Davey, who now resides in Switzerland and spends a portion of her time back on her farm in Oz, presents us with her debut recording titled ‘From Another Room’. She lists piano (keys and strings), vocals, and percussion as her tools for this, but one should know that treatments were part of the atmosphere. The compositions are actually improvised pieces that each had their own visual artist inspiration from a box of treasured pictures and texts Helen collected over the years. She includes a booklet with this CD (a thumbs up for physical packages from artists) which has a photo and text displayed with each song. The entire recording was done in Zurich while an extremely cold winter of 2006 was at hand. Helen placed the said photo and text on a stand, and began her composition from the memories she had from those items. She explains the title ‘From Another Room’ was originated from the idea of translating those art forms to the listener, thus like stepping from one room to another.

Not only do you instantly understand this is a insightful artist, but the skill level is high as well. The first track (“Bare Trees”) begins with beautiful solo piano that you’d swear was classic ECM Keith Jarrett or exquisite Belgian prolific Wim Mertens. Somewhat stark, as the title suggests, but never stops moving and has a wonderful warm feeling underneath the imagery. I could have listened to this nine minute gem turn into an eight part suite and been very happy. Maybe in the future eh?

Track two (“Damsels”) recaptures the same beauty as “Bare Trees”, adding somber chords and more Wim Mertens style piano, creating yet more imagery with such clarity. Helen’s fingers make magic on the keys. The acoustics are great throughout the entire recording and more important, microphone placement, mix, mastering and the whole production is immaculate. Tracks three, four and five are all themes under “Henna Hands” and given distinct subtitles “The Dancers”,” A Woman’s Mystery”, and “Desert Places”. Davey uses plucked strings along with standard piano on “A Woman’s Mystery”. It has a stillness to it, but still it floats as the piano keys move. “Desert Places” is much more diversity with keys, strings, and percussion (subtle and sparse). Grand piano dominates with sparing use of extras, but does add voice. Simply gorgeous!

Track six (“Spider’s Web at Dawn”) is the most contemplative, with a tenderness that soothes the soul. This reminded me a good deal of Tim Story’s early work. Track seven (“Spider Spinning Her Web”) follows but is much more upbeat and busy. This is yet another fine example of how brilliant Helen is with making images with her music. A perfect soundtrack to a spider making it’s web. Last but not least, track eight (“Glass Beads”) may be the future of things to come from this composer. She uses actual beads inside the piano on the strings for great effect. Surprising bass region, strings create a most unusual sound. While less linear than all other pieces on the release, this dances, skips, and carries you around a dark museum of antique toys. Very tasteful and smart composition. With all the subtle and carefully placed experimentation, this debut by Helen Davey never approaches any case of avant noise, no it’s highly melodic and beautiful throughout. This is much more classical and sentimental than one might expect, given the brief list of instruments listed, and the photo of her on back art over an open piano. It’s very song oriented in a classical way. In fact, the experimental touches, rare as they appear, do much to add atmosphere and twists. Nothing is overdone but simply perfectly placed. Helen creates and produces the entire recording. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Reviewed by Lee Henderson on August 8th, 2013


01. Bare Trees (8:59)
02. Damsels (5:58)
03. Henna Hands - The Dancer (8:12)
04. Henna Hands - A Woman's Mystery (5:26)
05. Henna Hands - Desert Places (5:14)
06. Spider's Web At Dawn (6:37)
07. Spider Spinning Her Web (7:01)
08. Glass Beads (8:23)

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