Sound track: “The Hunt” by Adrienne Ammerman

"The Hunt" is the new album from Asheville musician Adrienne Ammerman. Photo courtesy of the artist

Each of the 13 tracks on Adrienne Ammerman‘s new album The Hunt is relatively short: only three go over the four minute mark. They’re minimalistic, too — a strummed guitar, bare-bones percussion — allowing for the melody to be carried by Ammerman’s voice. And that’s the magic of this record. It’s spare but rich, each song a perfectly encapsulated story. Each story underscored by its own emotional tone, a soft touch that cuts to the quick.

“Thumbalina’s Mother” is slow and haunting, its minor chords and lilting notes recalling Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy.” The percussion, almost a flamenco beat, feels appropriately nocturnal and the occasional squeal of fingertips across strings only adds to the mood.

“The world is blown too big to contract all over again,” Ammerman sings on “Big.” It’s a concept both chilling and comforting; her warm vocal paired with a soaring harmony adds to that sense. Each song possesses, to some extent, that same quality of the microcosm and simultaneous macrocosm — a throwback to being a child gazing at the stars until overcome by the dizzying sense that the universe expands beyond the mind’s ability to comprehend.

That thread follows through on “Ghosts” with the intro line, “The moment where I felt I had it all was fleeting.” That song, its lilting verses built on a foundation of low thrum and gently pulsing rhythm — more an ebb and flow of blood than a percussive hit — is a stealth attack. The crystalline vocals dip and rise in mesmerizing waves. What begins as an interesting notion to the ear is soon a full-bodied trance. It’s a meditation that melts into a dream.

Manawee from Adrienne Ammerman on Vimeo.

The title track, while dreamy too, is more urgent. Rock drums (albeit soft ones) tick through electric guitars (Vincent Gagnon). There’s a nod to The Cranberries (the edgy pop sensibility, the female vocal, the crisp production), but also a timeless cinematic quality. Picture wandering the moors under cloudy skies in some alien landscape — though the mental image is likely suggested by the song: “I have my hunting boots and I’m crossing a brown field,” Ammerman sings.

Then there’s the drowsy swing of “Lay it to Me,” a lullaby with the starlit sparkle of of an Astrud Gilberto song or that “Sixpence None the Richer” chestnut. It’s cozy and uplifting (in a lowlight way), but the album standout is second track, “Manawee.” From its careful intro (“I had a twin who looked nothing like me, she fell in love far too easily), the spooky fable unfolds. The song title, elongated into an enigmatic call, is the whole of the chorus, sung over staccato vocalizations. It’s possible to listen to the song multiple times without fully comprehending its meaning. That doesn’t matter. The reward is in the spell that it casts, the enchanting soundscape and cinematic whorls of melody that offer a glimpse into a most extraordinary otherness.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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