I first met Rebekah at the very beginning of her solo career, when she performed at The Jazz Market in 2010. A mild mannered and pretty chilled out lady, she gave the impression that there wasn’t a whole lot that would faze her. This attitude was reflected in her music, slowly rolling and easy going, like mist gliding down a mountain early in the morning. I loved the set up of the band then, light drums, violin, bass, guitar and a saw (always good), so was delighted two years later when I was presented with her debut album ‘Don’t Sleep’ to review. The whole album had kept the overall tone that she displayed at her performance, which was breezy and casual yet still taking itself seriously.
The opening track ‘Little Boy Blue’ rolls straight into your hearing very unassumingly, with Rebekah‘s raspy vocals sitting very confidently on top of the melody. They are faint; yet don’t take this to mean that they aren’t assured. The tone immediately changes to darker, more dangerous sounding Latin tones with ‘Lamentine’ but before you have the chance to get completely hooked into the tune there is a fantastic slow gypsy folk breakdown, the saw is wavering, the music is slowing down, then the whole tune flows into a dreamy moving piece, before picking up right again at the end.
This album incorporates wide influences but firmly remains a pop album. This doesn’t mean average in any way; it is dark, original and unpredictable. It will flit between the foreboding melancholy of the earlier tracks to more upbeat tunes with tracks like ‘Day Like Any Other’ and the title track ‘Don’t Sleep’, using punchier and pacier vocals with a more hopeful and buoyant melody.
There is no song that stands still, for example there will be a Spanish guitar intro to the title track that will clearly be a pop song, before it collapses into tragic soaring strings and saw sounds and suddenly take on a less joyous tone. Rebekah uses hard and soft consonants to great effect in her lyrics, which really adds to the punchy or rolling nature of the melody at hand.
The only song that I wasn’t initially sure about was ‘Sing You Through The Storm’, which is wistful but also uncomplicated and slightly childish compared to the rest of the album. The simple nature of the music and lack of depth was something that I found a little odd in relation to the rest of the album, especially when the group chorus broke in, as it almost seemed like it was trying to be a Christmas hit. That said, when you listen to the lyrics you hear Rebekah singing words of reassurance to someone, letting them know that “we all break sometimes” and she’ll be there to pull them back up. It’s almost as if she is aiming this specifically at someone she aims to always protect and guide. In the context of the song the simplicity of the music makes sense, we all have things break down around us, but once everything is gone it’s very easy to hear the one who reaches out to us. The chorus effect is to show whoever is being sung to that they are not alone, so overall the style of music for this song seems like a very deliberate choice and I cannot fault that.
The album goes straight back to being wistful with the instrumental piano piece ‘Dark Waltz’, which does exactly what it says on the tin. ‘The Hunger That Never Sleeps’ is a great Western sound, with Rebekah‘s wispy spoken words working really well with her accent, before it moves on into Indian scales in tempo changes.
It keeps the overall dark tones but progresses from the gypsy folk of ‘Scoundrelle’ to the lovely soaring pop ballads of ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Ménage à Moi’. Occasionally a great line of two springs out at you, displaying Rebekah‘s skills as a lyricist as well as a composer. “When the wind touches my skin, my goosebumps are yours,” is a great lyric in ‘Trying To Forget’ when you hear her sing about how she can’t let go, even if she wants to, every aspect of her belongs to someone else, at least in that moment.
‘Vampires’ is a really strong way to finish the album, with sparse strings and tunes lightly peppered around strong vocals. The melodies all start off quite darkly and then go up into majors at the end of every line, unexpectedly ending on a positive note. They sync with the lyrics beautifully and rise and escalate into a grandiose tune.
Overall, I wouldn’t say that this album is ground breaking as the ideas used won’t necessarily change and influence the progression of music. However, there is a huge range of influences used that are very cleverly arranged to create an immensely original pop folk sound. The overlying tone of ‘Don’t Sleep’ is brooding, sometimes hopeful, with unusual instrumental arrangements which serve to keep it from sounding quite like anything else. It is accessible to most and also manages to be very subtly imaginative, combining familiar formulae to create an original sound which is far from clichéd. Fans of gypsy music, pop and folk will find themselves kept on their toes, while non-fans will find themselves pleasantly surprised.
Available now through Four In The Morning Records.
Posted by Kunal Singhal (Chaos Theory).