"These are not your usual downtempo sounds ..."
This was my first thought when I began listening to Water Door by Anna Morley, an Australian multi-instrumentalist and composer, who is currently based in Berlin.
Morley's main focus is the vibraphone, but she is known to lend her talents to violin, vocals and a range of keyboard and percussion instruments. Her musical abilities show on Water Door, an album that has remarkable depth that highlights some utterly fascinating instrumentation.
On her Bandcamp page Morley is credited with not just with the instruments mentioned above; but with keys, harmonica, ukulele, and beats too. Her partners in crime - Jorge da Rocha & Alex Forster - are credited with double bass & classical guitar (da Rocha) and tenor & acoustic guitar, oud, and moog (Forster).
This instrumentation really does come together to make something beautiful. It is used imaginatively and used well to make 9 unique tracks that stand on their own as well as work together to form a cohesive whole. The layers of sound create a truly immersive audio experience, one that I found I could lose myself within very easily. Each track has its own identity, its unique character. Over 37 minutes, I am continually astounded by the sounds presented - for example, the keys on 'Not Letting Go', the double-bass on 'Bold' or the vibraphone on 'Sea Ballad' - it is both a surprise and a comfort, like bumping into an old friend, someone you didn't expect to meet but are glad you did.
Water Door is exemplary of the downtempo genre with its deep, immersive, handcrafted layers of sound. It shows what can be done in a genre that has become almost too familiar to the listener.
The stand out track for me is Morley's cover of Eric Satie's 'Gnossienne no1'. It is a wonderfully fresh reimagining of a timeless classic, with the most exquisite vibes on offer. It has a decidedly film-noir feel to it, one that I simply adore especially when her haunting, ethereal vocals are presented.
I guess this is Morley's genius and why I love Water Door so much ... she has taken a loved and well worn genre (downtempo) and given it a fresh reimagining. And, in doing so, she has made something worth listening to, something that will stay with you long after the album has stopped, something that will compel you to press play or reach for repeat.
I would highly recommend Water Door to anyone with a fondness for either downtempo music or a preference for varied and imaginative instrumentation. For me, this album was one of the finds of 2013.