Roger O'Donnell: The Truth In Me

Roger O'Donnell's The Truth in Me is distinguished immediately by its sole reliance on a single instrument: the Moog Voyager synthesizer. Inspired by Björk's voice-generated Medulla, the one-time Cure keyboardist also chose to create an entire album using a single instrument (vocals do, however, appear on three songs) yet in such a way that the focus would be on its emotional potential coupled with a deliberate avoidance of clichéd effects. He thoroughly succeeds in this regard with the synthesizer sound pure and untainted. Most critically, the overriding strength of the album is compositional, with the album presenting ten varied songs that are engrossing in melodic richness and emotive character. Interestingly, even though O'Donnell deployed synthesizer, the pieces might just as easily have been presented as piano pieces; while listening, one even imagines them translated as such, the bright streams of synth lines, for example, replaced with rolling clusters of piano notes. That the songs could so easily entertain such transcription speaks highly about the quality of the material.

The songs' arrangements feel complete while also open enough that the material breathes easily. Mournful melodies criss-cross and intersect in the gorgeous meditation “The Truth in Me,” with O'Donnell cultivating an initial bluesy and ultimately portentous mood through their interweave. A softly insistent bass line anchors “Not Without You,” allowing soloing to range freely over top, a strategy O'Donnell revisits throughout, while rising and falling movement brings tension and relief during “He Sent You Angels.” Erin Lang's vocals provide appealing contrast to the instrumental settings. Singing of a love affair's end, her breathy vocal complements the querulous musing of the softly glimmering motifs in the lovely “For the Truth in You” and she also graces the sweetly jubilant “Treasure,” the song also different from others in its incorporation of (keyboard-generated) percussive rhythms. The singular and lovely The Truth in Me transcends any seeming limitations the singular instrument approach might have created.

June 2006