Masha Qrella: Unsolved Remained
Morr Music

Contriva guitarist and bassist, Mina keyboardist, and NMFarner co-founder, Masha Qrella brings many years' experience to her second solo album and Luck (Monika, 2002) follow-up Unsolved Remained. The album definitely feels like a solo project, given the dominating presence of her distinctive vocals and occasional guitar. Distinctive doesn't mean richly expressive, however, as her hushed and breath-laden singing, while attractive enough, is rather deadpan in its delivery, somewhat emotionally stunted and restrained. The success of the album, then, depends heavily on the caliber of the songwriting and the arrangements; luckily, both are fine.

Her style gravitates towards folk-pop (“Last Night,” “My Day”), though there's nothing objectionable about that when the results are as pretty as “Feels Like.” Wistful and intimate, the song exudes a gentle, European feel that might remind some of another recent Morr release, Guther's I Know You Know. A lazy fireside ambiance pervades “Sister, Welcome,” an acoustic ballad with a slightly bluesy feel; Qrella wisely gives the song a rawer edge with an electric guitar solo, a strategy applied elsewhere to add greater contrast to other songs too.

Moving away from folk-pop, the sparse title track exudes a faint hint of trip-hop while the lurching folk-rock of “Everything Shows” includes some memorable fuzz guitar. There are also two instrumentals: “C.bones,” based on a sample from ISO68, and the bluesy trip-hopper “Guided By The Stripes.” But the greatest contrast arrives in two collaborations: Swede Henrik Johansson contributes a dense backing of unusual mechanical beats to “I Can't Tell” (though the song's psychedelic slide guitar suggests shoegaze), and “Destination Vertical” (already heard on ~scape's But Then Again) effectively couples Rechenzentrum's glitchy shuffle with Qrella's vocal and power chords, making one long for a full-album collaboration. It's perhaps the most special moment on this generally satisfying collection, an album which also signifies Morr's tentative expansion into indie-rock territory.

March 2005