Lesley Flanigan—Thinking Real Hard
Lesley Flanigan begins each of the tracks on Amplifications, her first solo album for her speaker electronics and voice, with just a spare hum. Sometimes it’s human, sometimes machine produced. In each case, it goes on to partner with additional tracks of vocal and electronic source material to build out captivating aural worlds.
Flanigan opens the disc with Retrobuild, introducing a pure solo voice offering gently gliding pitches that quickly doubles into an intimate duet and continues to multiply until it has expanded into a choir of ascending lines. It’s ethereal in the Siren sense more than an angelic heralding to my ears (though I would suggest that this might make a fine addition to any holiday soundtrack that has already exhausted Vince Guaraldi’s contributions). After succumbing to its rocking lull, the track’s abrupt ending snaps the ear back to reality, but listeners will find themselves beckoned by this snatch of melody several times again before the album has run its full course.
From here, Flanigan moves into a deeper and moodier meditation with Sleepy, the wordless vocal line and electronic sounds all floating in the sway. Snow, however, takes a turn toward the circuit-bendy, generating a harsher and sharper aural image projected out over a droning ebb and flow akin to a sleeper’s steady breathing. Flanigan’s vocal contributions lightly accent the proceedings until the track’s closing moments when the music returns to the thematic material of the opening track.
Cruising into Thinking Real Hard, with the ear secure in its grasp of the sonic material being used to build the music on this record—the repertoire of electronic sounds, the droning tones, the glissando-showcasing vocal lines—one of Flanigan’s many layered tracks begins to sing to us in English. “Stay with me a while…” one incarnation of the author entreats, even though she is the one dissolving back into the same lush choir that has kept us company for the majority of the album.
Pinkish White, at just shy of three minutes, serves as something of a delicate palate cleanser before the final track, Say You. Mixing words and sung tones, all of the material is vocal, a layered one-woman chorus that sits as a reflective bookend to the disc’s opening sound world. Long, pure tones, a few comprehensible words, a snatch of melody worked over and over again, caught in an approximation of a skipping record.
Amplifications is a snow storm of a record, a beautiful heap of sound with some sharp icicle edges buried inside, a 35-minute shower of glistening sonic elements that transfix the ear with their beauty and only reveal their true weight once the storm is over.