Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Tamara Sandor Album Launch | Review


Tamara Sandor Album Launch  |  Cagibi

                                 THE CULMINATION | KAIVA BRAMMANIS                
                            PHOTO  |  JOSH HAWLEY

Cagibi’s red velvet curtains are draped with twinkling lights. The room is full and the lights are turned down low. Tamara Sandor is standing onstage, dressed in a long Victorian dress with a high lace collar and drapey sleeves, head bedecked with a wreath of tiny leaves.

She lets out the last few notes of her last song. There is a pause, and then the audience swells with applause that reverberates throughout the small room. As the crowd keeps clapping, Sandor steps back up to the microphone with a grin, commenting, “Well, I’m glad you liked it!”

An understatement, of course – they loved it.

Album launches always have an air of excitement. Maybe it’s the large number of friends and family in the audience, or the promise of new tunes not yet worn out with too many listens. Or maybe it’s just the fact that an album itself is a beautiful, composed culmination of something that has been in the works for weeks, months, even years. 

And for Sandor, it’s almost eight years. Sandor put out an EP in 2006, but this is her first full album release.  Though the album, A Bower in the Arsacides, ultimately came together over the course of the last year, the songs themselves date back much farther. Sitting in the front of Cagibi before her show, Tamara Sandor pauses when trying to describe her album. “It’s eclectic,” she says. And she’s right – it’s not something that can be easily summed up in a couple of words. 

Though Sandor mentions a few elements that consistently pepper her work – there’s at least a tiny bit of humour in almost all of her songs, and many of them take up the theme of travel – the one thing that stands out for me is her astounding knack for songwriting. At a live show, it’s impossible to catch everything right away, but fragments and phrases stick out, and the songs beg for a more careful listen. Sandor’s carefully crafted lines offer up honest thoughts, eloquent yet still bare in their simplicity: “The body remembers what the heart deems too tender,” she sings in Owed to the Road. Sandor, citing everything from bike trips to Canadian literature as inspiration, has no shortage of topics to tease out in her lyrics.

Some songs have a mysterious edge; others are more playful. Before launching into one of her numbers, Sandor describes how this particular “blues song” originally came to be while she was “carrying a canoe over [her] head.” Sandor’s music is born out of movement; she says she often gets ideas for “words and melody and rhythm” while she’s out walking. 

And there’s more to admire than just the words – the tunes are catchy and deftly navigated onstage. There’s an ease with which Sandor dances across the notes, a skillful effortlessness with which she works her way through the music.

Her openers don’t fail to impress either. Harvest Soon takes the stage first. Though the music is bareboned and minimal, the sound is anything but plain. Harvest Soon has harmonies tinged with longing; they play slowly, taking their time, unafraid of the effect of a good pause. Their instrumentation is also simple: guitar, bass, and a Schwartz’s jar of spices, used as a shaker. Why buy maracas when you can just raid the pantry? 

Ohara Hale’s set, right before Sandor’s, is also memorable. Her vocals, alternately breathy and piercing, are augmented by swooping lines of violin from Patrick Cruvellier, deep bass rumbles from Patrick Latreille, and steady drum strokes from Luke Loseth. (Both Patricks also stay on to play with Sandor, adding a good dose of strings to her set, while Jon Crellin takes over the drums.)

For the last song of the night, Sandor invites a whole cohort of musicians up onstage, including saxophonist Adam Kinner and opener Ohara Hale. It’s a celebratory end to a celebratory night. And the best part of it being an album launch? You’re only a few clicks away from hearing it all again.

Give the album a listen, and check out Sandor’s new music video “The Fool.
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