Dana Sipos – The Astral Plane
British Columbia singer-songwriter Dana Sipos (vocals/guitar/percussion) reunited with her crack studio band & teamed with producer Sandro Perri (synth/percussion) to create the 9-cut The Astral Plane (Drops June 25-Roaring Girl Records). The 39-minute CD was recorded in a large converted 1860s stone carriage house in Cambridge, Ontario in the summer of 2020. Sipos is known for her innovative approach to her musical genre not only musically but how the production is shaped.
From what I can decipher of Ms., Sipos’ lyrics she is somewhat in a Joni Mitchell-jazz framework. Her words are carefully chosen, descriptive as in “we’re two broken bones, I guess, camped out in borrowed bodies just waiting to be set.” Fairly good. Definitely head & shoulders above what passes for lyrics in most repertoires today.
But Sipos doesn’t yet have a defining Mitchell vocal – though, Dana does possess originality in her phrasing & tone. At times, I’d like to hear her rise above a whisper. “Swallows Call,” has a haunting guitar & originality to it that is commendable. I don’t hear Dana try to sound like or adapt to anyone else. There are snippets of recollection like Mitchell but not strong traces.
The songs delineate imprints of memory, family history, environments, legacies, life’s urgency, forms of loss, but never get too heavy or political. The primary instruments are guitar & piano with the focus on Dana’s captivating vocals. “A Crude Likeness,” touches upon the intonation, tonality & calming style of Madeleine Peyroux without her Billie Holiday inclinations.
Jazz singers would find more of a wealth of material here than average singers. The songs are rich with phrasing possibilities. “Light Around the Body,” is a vocal jewel with its heavy bassline & steady percussive touches beneath the surface & airy acoustics.
My only criticism would be that Dana should add one tune that has a little muscle. Not rock & roll – just something with a gripping tale, set to a memorable melody with instrumental flair. Think Joni’s “Help Me,” as an example vocally, & with its undercurrent saxes for punctuation. Suspend the sweet sublime approach & add some vinegar to her cleverness.
“Greenbelt,” & “Hoodoo” both come close but seem to hold back. “Hoodoo” is loaded with thick bass; acoustic guitar picking & is a haunting song. These both have superb narrative lyrics. Lydia Persaud adds vocals on “Greenbelt.”
Dana maintains her uniqueness throughout these enchanting pieces blending her own easy listening poetic charm to her jazzy ballad modus operandi.
Musicians: Nick Zubeck (electric guitar), Tom Hammerton (keys/organ/piano), Mark McIntyre (electric/upright bass), Blake Howard (drums/percussion), with Michael Davidson (vibraphone), Fats Kaplin (violin on “Daniel”), Danielle Knibbe & Barbara Lica (vocals on “Daniel”).
B&W photograph courtesy of Chris Dufour // Available @ Bandcamp & https://www.danasipos.com/