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Who cares if an artist has gone quiet for almost a decade if, when she returns, her new material is an invigorating blast of deeply felt art-pop? East Vancouver experimentalist Veda Hille gives us that on the emotionally generous, endlessly inventive Love Waves, her first album since the birth of her seven-year-old son.
An adventurous spirit has fuelled Hille’s career of left turns, which has seen her craft works based on birdsongs and Christian hymns and song cycles about Emily Carr and science/nature, and collaborate with avant-garde theatre groups and CBC’s Bill Richardson. On her 20th effort, she explores with great intelligence, exuberance and artfully expressed clarity the challenges and bliss of love, and the experience of growing older, among other things.
Usually her angular, full-throttle piano-playing is front and centre, but here softer synthetic textures and electronic beats fill out the space between her plainly emotive voice and striking lyrics. The album grows from minimal, nearly a cappella songs like standout opener Lover/Hater to shockingly lush synth-pop. (Goodbye To Berlin wouldn’t sound out of place on a New Pornographers’ album. Notably, New Pornographer John Collins produced the album.)
That minimal-to-full journey sometimes occurs in a single song. Take Burst, in which Hille sings somewhat lonesomely lines like “I wish I could explain / what it’s like getting older / feeling things for years and years and years and years and years,” but which eventually grows to include a thick, cosmic chorus of male and female voices singing in a gorgeous round. There’s also a synth-pop rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Sun Whose Rays, a gentle cover of Brian Eno’s By This River and a rethink of David Bowie’s Teenage Wildlife.
For fans of John K. Samson, Rae Spoon and Neko Case.
Top track: Lover/Hater
Veda Hille plays the Burdock on Thursday (June 2). See listing.