SUPPLYING the power of her violin to Arcade Fire from their breakthrough smash Neon Bible on; founding member of exploratory instrumental sextet Bell Orchestre, alongside Richard Parry, whose career has run contiguously with the former band; solo artist in her own right, Sarah Neufeld has her fingers in many Canadian musical pies.
Initially releasing her material on that mecca of all things leftfield north of the 49th parallel, Constellation – home to her 2013 album Hero Brother, a beguiling and heady mix of violin rootsiness refracted through a more experimental lense, much as with Mary Lattimore on the harp and William Tyler with the guitar, she showed a willingness to explore which ran on through the more angular, atmospheric two-handed with Colin Stetson in 2015, Never Were The Way She Was, and her last solo outing, The Ridge, five years back now.
She’s all set to release her third solo LP, Detritus, on One Little Independent in May; and if the lead track, “Stories”, the impressionistic visualiser accompanying which you can watch below, is anything to go by: well then. Wow.
It aims for and bullseyes a particularly dark ethereal grace, a touch of the This Mortal Coils in its filigree and shadow, the otherworldly soar of Julianna Barwick; wordless vocal grace taking flight over a twining of synth and violin with a lush, sombre, mitteleuropean folksy feel.
Detritus, we’re told, originated with a collaboration: in 2015 Sarah was invited to appear on stage with dancer and choreographer Peggy Baker, who was to perform a solo piece based on The Ridge, to which Sarah added a new lyrical prelude.
The result was reportedly incendiary; the two artists agreed to reunite for a full-length show with Baker’s company, for which Sarah would write and perform the music.
Baker had conceived the show around the title of Neufeld’s prelude, “Who We Are In The Dark”, exploring themes of loss, betrayal and the emptiness of space; Sarah was having a dark time herself, with a relationship having ended.
The work premiered in February 2019 and Sarah saw an album to be distilled from the performance music. And so Detritus was born, with influences ranging from the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók to Aphex Twin.
Sarah says of “Stories” and the album as a whole: “I was inspired by both a sense of interior aloneness, and a sense of deep intimacy; within both, a profound questioning of identity and intention, and ultimately, a grieving over one’s former sense of self. The stories we’ve told ourselves that we can no longer believe.
“Nestled within deep layers of comfort, familiarity, and solace, I’m able to repeat myself again and again, never learning, never looking back. Simultaneously becoming wiser and more ignorant as the years wind on, beauty and grace exist even here, in this rift.”
Sarah Neufeld’s Stories will be released by One Little Indian digitally, on CD and on vinyl on May 14th; you can pre-order yours now.