Backtracking with Lenzman
Sontag Shogun

Black Top
Apollo Brown
Jeff Burch
Anla Courtis
Federico Durand
William Ryan Fritch
Goldberg, Levy, Dobson
Mitch Greer
Hiss Tracts
Kabale Und Liebe
Inigo Kennedy
Moon Zero
James Murray
Never Sol
N. A. Drift / Northumbria
P.J. Philipson
Pjusk / Sleep Orchestra
PRISM Quartet
David Ross & Clive Bell
Bruno Sanfilippo
Snoqualmie Falls
Alexander Turnquist
Kojiro Umezaki
The Westerlies
Brock Van Wey

Compilations / Mixes
Platinum Breakz Vol 4

EPs / Cassettes / Mini-Albums / Singles
Blind EP1
Matt Boettke
Brandon Hurtado
Kolectiv, Dexta & Mauoq
John Lemke
Mako, DLR & Fields
Frederic Robinson
Summons of Shining...
Tone Color

Stephen Vitiello

Never Sol: Under Quiet
Denovali Records

Cross Lana Del Rey with KD Lang and you might end up with a singer like Czech singer Sára Vondrášková, who creates music from her Prague home base under the Never Sol name. In fact, “Hands,” one of the better songs on her debut album Under Quiet, even sounds as if it's got a bit of Lang's “Constant Craving” in its DNA. While North American listeners might only be starting to become familiar with Never Sol, awareness of the conservatory-trained Vondrášková within her own country has grown steadily since she began performing at the Prague venue Café V Lese in 2011 and singing regularly with fellow Czech musician Floex.

Vondrášková's husky voice and keyboard playing (piano, primarily) are naturally the central elements, but Under Quiet also draws heavily upon Jan P. Muchow's contributions as a producer and musician. And though voice and piano are the key elements within any given Never Sol song, Vondrášková's familiarity with music production software also factors significantly; in like regard, she also isn't afraid to venture outside the traditional acoustic framework and mix it up by threading electronics and synthesizers into the songs' arrangements. One track, “Breathe,” even points Never Sol in the direction of electro-funk.

The boldness of the approach Vondrášková and Muchow bring to the material is apparent from the very first song, “Lake,” where her dramatic delivery is amplified by an arrangement that adds orchestral instruments and synthetic elements to its torch song-like core. The versatility of Vondrášková as a singer is also well-accounted for in a setting whose emotional range calls upon her to express anguish and delicacy in equal measure. A similarly epic orchestral treatment is applied to the aforementioned “Hands,” with this time the elaborate instrumentation design joined by choral background singing. Aware that the album could suffer from overkill if every song were to be clothed in such elaborate garb, Vondrášková and Muchow wisely offset “Lake” and “Hands” with a starker setting such as “Run With The Wolves,” where Vondrášková's voice is accompanied primarily by acoustic guitar.

Identifying Never Sol's music as torch song material isn't off-the-mark, given the high drama and theatricality of the productions involved (the tormented “Femme Fatale,” angst-ridden “Burning,” and bluesy, strings-drenched ballad “Lay Down” prime examples); the addition of a hip-hop feel to the songs' rhythms would, on the other hand, have positioned the album in the vicinity of trip-hop. Perhaps the thing that recommends Under Quiet the most is the broad range of material covered on the fifty-seven-minute collection, and, with the album presenting twelve originals and two bonus treatments (a pulsating, electronics-heavy remix of “Places” by Roman Fiordmoss and a stripped-down acoustic treatment of “Hands”), it would be hard to imagine any listener coming away from it feeling shortchanged. Impressive too are the obvious care and dedication shown by Vondrášková and Muchow in their thoughtful presentation of the material.

June 2014