Cinder Well

REVIEW: Cinder Well “Cadence”


Cinder Well – Cadence

This 44-minute set by Cinder Well features 9 tunes based on an experimental folk idiom & its title refers to the cycles of turbulent lives & uncertain tides & searches for a sense of grounding. A mix of California musical riches & Irish influences permeates the set.

Produced by Amelia Baker (vocals/guitar/fiddle/organ/piano/songwriter) the band had its origins in a doom-folk showcase by the acclaimed Cinder Well. “Cadence,” expands its showcase to sound closer to the mythical Laurel Canyon rhythms of life. The expressive music reflects the images of moonlit caves, edgy cliffs, dark sunsets & shadows. An exploration of consequence, reconciliation, being lost & being free from places where we feel stuck. Like being between two worlds, tied to the ebb & flow of influences — surreal & sublime.

Cinder Well

Cadence (Drops April 21–Free Dirt Records) produced by Amelia is similar in intensity & exploration to jazz composer Carla Bley’s creations (1968-71) on “Escalator Over the Hill.” Ms. Baker’s effort is not a jazz record, or even in a Carla Bley spirit — the conceptualization approach is as brave in its textural exploration.

Nonetheless, whenever an artist steps away from their comfort zone results can be intense, or they can be porous to a listener. The attention, interpretation & perception can be gripped, or they can slip through one’s fingers like sand.

Some songs have lush breathy ambient minimalism as evident in Julie Tippett’s 1975 progressive jazz LP “Sunset Glow,” with “Behind the Eyes.” Vocals are more focused on the acrobatics of tonality rather than high notes & power. Amelia’s vocals have a jazzy undertone, but the banjos & fiddles surround her dark folky suspensions with effect. The approach is like the more beauteous melodies of Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard or the presence could be traced even closer to Jarboe’s vocal shapeshifting with The Swans (“Can’t Find My Way Home”).

Ms. Baker’s mature progressive vocal styling is like biting into a piece of sweet chocolate only to find liquor in it. The balance is atmospheric — more Salvador Dali than Warhol. You can feel the turbulence in the waves through the motion of the music (“Cadence”).

The eccentric compositions stay afloat individually. There are swipes at the Golden Palominos (Syd Straw on “Diamonds”) & Cocteau Twins. Despite the innocuous lyrics Baker’s vocals are well-articulated & the application of fiddles & acoustic guitars on the exceptional “A Scorched Lament,” holds its traditional ghosts wonderfully.

Musicians – Phillip Rogers (drums), Neal Heppleston (bass), Jake Falby (viola), Cormac MacDiarmada (fiddle) & Nich Wilbur (organ).
Highlights – “Two Heads, Grey Mare,” “Overgrown,” “Returning,” “Cadence,” “Gone the Holding,” A Scorched Lament” & “I Will Close In the Moonlight.”

CD photo/portrait image by George Zeavin. CD @ Bandcamp +

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