Andy Nice: The Secrets of Me
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With one exception, Andy Nice's The Secrets of Me is a seven-track collection of cello instrumentals—which may or may not sound terribly inviting, depending on one's appetite for solo cello recordings. However, even a cursory listen to Nice's half-hour set should convince those less inclined to investigate the project that The Secrets of Me is considerably more than just a self-indulgent dispay of cello playing technique. The pieces obviously testify to Nice's proficiency on the instrument, but they also effectively showcase his compositional talents, with the Tindersticks' member weaving sinuous and seductive melodies into graceful, four-minute wholes throughout. What helps give the pieces greater impact is Nice's decision to build them up with multiple layers; more often than not, it feels as if we're listening to a cello section playing rather than a single instrumentalist.

The Secrets of Me moves on from the haunting and stately waltz, “Holly at the Ivy,” to the wistful “Ballax,” which through repetition, grows ever more entrancing. During “Dr. Titan,” sawing patterns and a plucked motif provide rhythmic underpinning to a swarm of ululating cellos that ascends upwards in seemingly desperate manner. The equally hypnotic “The 4th Man” is as impassioned in its intense embrace of undulating melodies. In a change of pace, the final track “Somebody Take Me Home” revisits the melancholy opener “Orangeblu” and adds the hushed singing of Maple Bee and lilting percussive support to convert the piece into a trip-hop-styled slow dance. Though obviously anomalous to some degree, the re-work isn't displeasing and helps bring Nice's fine release to a memorable close. What recommends the release most is Nice's ability to deploy his technical skills in the service of achieving self-delineated compositional goals.

November 2009