Sarah Neufeld, one half of one of my favorite albums from 2015, Never Were The Way She Was with the other half being Colin Stetson, is putting out a solo record this year called The Ridge. This new song brings the exact half I loved about Never Were to the front and center, which is Neufeld’s feverish violin playing. The other half that was present on Never Were, Stetson’s demonic saxophone grunts, however, are missing, thus making the track lack the brilliant foil that was found on the 2015 album.
However however, even without Stetson’s saxophone this track is still bursting with a type of euphoric intensity that not a lot of modern music has these days besides certain types of post rock or modern classical compositions. Neufeld’s violin playing is at a steady, rapid pace here, rising and falling in dynamic and octave like ocean currents, while drums accentuate the waves by having them slap against a sonic cliffside at each of the melodic crests. They also quietly bubble in the beginning of the track, egging the ferocity of the violin playing right out of the gate.
This percussion is an element that was not present on Never Were, which provides a whole new lens to contrast Neufeld’s violin playing. I’m not saying that the song would be boring with just her slamming the strings, but I’m all about the juicy clash of sounds. Two different elements coming together in a heated dance makes for a much more engaging song, in my mind. I also cannot deny that there’s a goliath bass saxophone-like texture that shows up at the halfway point in the track, which might indeed be Stetson, or maybe it’s another source, but either way – it’s huge. It’s awesome.
Another piece on this song that was not featured as prominently in Never Were are Neufeld’s vocals, which come in near the end of the song. They’re very feathery; delicately raining down from above the sonic sea, as if her words are the wind whispering in the trees after the storm. In a way they sound like a more direct Julianna Barwick – they share some characteristics for sure.
Overall, I’m very excited for this album. As a fellow violin player myself, I love to hear the instrument used in nonconventional settings such as this. I know I’m already a fan of her playing, so I’m sure the only thing that’s in the air on my enjoyment of the album is her use and variation of sonic and melodic counterpoint throughout. If she does that, I’m sure this album will make it very high into my favorites of 2016. But for right now, listen to this song real loud and get lost in it. It’s a simple pleasure you can give yourself today.