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Sea Of Bees
Songs For The Ravens Francine Gorman , February 8th, 2011 09:26

When the word 'Sacramento' is mentioned, the musically minded fan is perhaps likely to rustle up inklings of the jazz traditional of the area, or to think to the more recent legacies of local bands such as Deftones, !!! and Will Haven. On the other side of Sacramento, there is a very different talent to be found. The sun-soaked Californian city has recently uncovered Julie Ann Baenziger, a local multi-instrumentalist in the process of releasing her first full length album, Songs For The Ravens.

Working under the pseudonym of Sea of Bees, Baenziger has written and orchestrated a warming collection of tales about a young woman's discovery of the world. The songs are stories of meeting, loving and losing people. Stories of adventures, realisation and friendship - poetic tales of her own experiences and circumstances that she has watched unravel and unfold. The lyrics are poignant and well plotted, but as attractive as they may be, are overshadowed by the most striking element of this record - the delicate, childlike tone of Baenziger's voice. From the opening wail of 'Gnomes' through to the lilting sighs of closing track 'Blind', her voice is captivating - fragile and young. Accompanying these sumptuous vocals which are at times reminiscent of recent Joanna Newsom creations, Baenziger has meticulously woven together guitar lines, cellos, marimbas, piano and vocal tracks to create an environment suitable for the tales she has to tell.

Richly textured, multi-layered harmonies are present and engrossing, however the resulting sonic mist at times dampens the warmth and clarity of Baenziger's voice, the consistently brightest element of this collection. There are a few moments where the pace of the album ebbs due to the use of a relatively regular song construction. However, issues such as these are more or less rites of passage for a debut album, and in this instance are more than balanced by the soft-edged instrumental clouds that are created, then tightly fitted around her vocal melodies to really enhance the sentiment driving the tracks. The influence of fellow folk raconteurs Midlake can be heard throughout 'Marmalade', where muttered vocals and slide guitars are scattered over the top of an intensely textured instrumental backdrop. It's a beautiful track, and one of the album's more telling examples of this artist's potential.

A shy and meek character by all accounts, Baenziger's work as Sea of Bees is perhaps her way of breaking into the adult world, pushing her personal boundaries and exposing herself to life as an artist. Her efforts to ensure that each song is sincerely crafted culminate in an honest and likeable first album. If there's one criticism to be made it's that it's a shame that Baenziger perhaps doesn't yet possess the confidence to embark on a wider exploration of her impressive vocal range. But these glimpses and the impressive arrangements throughout hint that this debut album is but the first step in what has the potential to become a very interesting musical journey.

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