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Sophie Tassignon: Mysteries Unfold (RareNoise)

A review of the German-based vocalist's first solo album

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Sophie Tassignon: Mysteries Unfold
The cover of Mysteries Unfold by Sophie Tassignon

Belgian-born, German-based vocalist Sophie Tassignon has issued more than a half-dozen records since 2006 as a member of various ensembles and duos, as well as numerous collaborations for theatrical plays and visual art exhibits. But Mysteries Unfold is an entirely solo endeavor, reflecting Tassignon’s near-decade-long desire to fashion a standalone musical identity with just her layered vocals and spare electronic accompaniment.

It’s been worth the wait. The album retains a cohesive sensibility amid a remarkable breadth of material; the eight compositions are halved between Tassignon’s originals (both new and old) and covers that range from Vivaldi to Dolly Parton. She sings in four different languages, abetted by plenty of melisma, but keeps the moments of primal abandon and other aspects of her avant-garde arsenal under wraps.

The opener, “Gubi Okayannie,” is taken from a romantic 1978 Russian film, melodramatized by swells of emotional intensity reminiscent of both Gaelic and gospel music. The abject plea at the heart of Parton’s “Jolene” is buttressed by a nicely arrayed Greek chorus of Tassignon overdubs, followed by a fleet, light-hearted ditty, “Don’t Be So Shy With Me,” that she’s frequently performed with other ensembles. A more recent original, “Descending Tide,” evokes an intimate yet ethereal tone that recalls Tassignon’s once-stated wish to conjure the atmosphere of films by Ingmar Bergman and early Jim Jarmusch.

Vocal arrangements are creatively rendered throughout, be it the layering on Tassignon’s a cappella cover of the Cowboy Junkies’ “Witches” or the way the voices skid and collide to help propel “La Nuit.” Vivaldi’s “Cum Dederit” is appropriately reverent and, especially in the upper register, majestic. That leaves the title song, another original, which manages to be both wistful and resolute, an unfolding mystery from an artist who sings with the knowledge that we never run out of clues or secrets.

Preview, buy or download Mysteries Unfold on Amazon!

Originally Published