Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Album Review: Now It's Time

The daughter of a Southern minister, a choir member from the age of four and a mainstay of various punk bands (including Frightwig) in the 1980s, Paul Frazer discovered her true path when she formed the group Tarnation in 1992.

As the personnel rotated from record to record and even from tour to tour, Frazer was Tarnation's only constant, as well as the sombre tone that coupled traditional western music with sixties pop sensibilities.

After two albums, Gentle Creatures and the acclaimed Mirador, Frazer took a step away from the name Tarnation in order to free herself from the constraints that she felt the band's structure imposed. Frazer released two solo albums - Indoor Universe and Leave The Sad Things Behind - that were lush and symphonic, as well as a compilation of four-track recordings, A Place Where I Know.

Now, having written a batch of songs that bear the same doleful quality last witnessed during the Mirador years, Frazer decided it was time to re-establish Tarnation, hence the new album's title.

Now It's Time reconnects with Tarnation's past by marrying an olde tyme ambience created by long-time collaborator Patrick Main's piano with Jasmyn Wong's drums and whispering guitars and strings, which wonderfully frame Frazer's signature angelic voice.

Pretend recalls Nick Drake; First Sign incorporates elements of last year's solo record, Leave The Sad Things Behind; Nowhere is the kind of lyrical ballad that Paula last employed when writing The Wall well over a decade ago, with the Moore Brothers adding backing vocals. The twin highlights, however, are August's Song and Sleeping Dreams, which tell the story of a broken relationship from the two different perspectives.

Frazer has one of the most distinctive and rangy altos in popular music and, paired with assured songwriting, Now It's Time feels both at once traditional and contemporary.

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