Sarah Neufeld
The Ridge


4.0
excellent

Review

by Tristan Jones STAFF
March 2nd, 2016 | 61 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Watching the countryside

It’s exciting when an artist deeply indebted to traditional musical doctrines is able to defy them gracefully. In an interview with Speakeasy, violinist Sarah Neufeld explains both a reverence for classical training, and an urge to pathfind at her leisure. For example, she forgoes normal musical notation for a peculiar system of “maps and codes.” Whatever it is, it translates well. Titular opener “The Ridge” is both powerful and delicate, with a triumphant shimmer. It conveys a sense of dawning; but, rather than complete serenity, it resembles waking up mid-flight, instantly exhilarated. Fellow Arcade Fire member Jeremy Gara boosts the track with drum work that is either subtle or vivid as needed, propelling the song forward buoyantly. Follow-up “We’ve Got a Lot” balances Neufeld’s stringed precision with oozing, percussive undertones in the form of murky synth work. One of The Ridge's best assets is using a fairly basic set of core elements - primarily, Neufeld’s violin, occasional vocals, Gara’s drumming, and a few Colin Stetson sightings - and achieving both variety and cohesiveness in near-perfect measures. No two songs have the same framework, yet The Ridge sounds disciplined and focused.

The overall sound is post-minimalism in the vein of some of Max Richter’s work, but with a more rewarding sense of abstruse emotions and uplifting, well-paced structures, and less moping. Everything is bright and picturesque, with a keen sense of soundscaping. Another vital quality of The Ridge is its use of transitions, be they song-to-song or mid-track. “The Glow” shifts from a bubbly, organic pizzicato technique to an ethereal outro fitting for a Chelsea Wolfe number. Like the rest of the album, the percussion is both peripheral and sporadically rhythmic, either popping in without much warning, or fading into the background almost unnoticeably. The story arch across The Ridge is compelling, which feels a bit counterintuitive to say, given how ambiguous it is. There might not be much contextual reasoning in how the songs are woven together, but Neufeld has a weird sense of neoclassicism. Her songs feel like cultural relics that aren’t really bound to any specific period or place, blended with more present-day composition: a sort of juncture to a fictitious realm. It just works well, and it's difficult to pinpoint exactly why.

Initially, The Ridge doesn’t really present itself in an immediately-satisfying way, beyond being undeniably pretty (and, on “Chase the Bright and Burning”, bizarrely sexy); but, it isn’t too dense to dig into casually. It’s a very light album, mostly. Some similar works have a waterlogged quality, where every crevice is stuffed with unnecessary tones, bogging it down. Neufeld’s sophomore solo release feels very airy and fresh, despite the rich content and array of ideas. The most evocative moments are softly-placed, begging for additional listens. In particular, closer “Where the Light Comes In” feels like an old village slowly decaying in the wake of encroaching modern developments; or, it resembles the dignity of an old man dying while overseeing a prosperous farm he cultivated through years of honest toiling. There’s a very deliberate, sensuous inflection with each saw of the strings, in contrast to the rapid, feathery delivery in the title track. The strength of The Ridge isn’t really in how it evokes emotions, or even to showcase Neufeld’s maturing skills, though it accomplishes both. Moreso, it succeeds in how it makes an indeterminate landscape worth trekking.




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user ratings (79)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
March 2nd 2016


5749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

listen - http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2016/02/22/sarah-neufeld-arcade-fire-the-ridge-stream/

jtswope
March 2nd 2016


4945 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Was hoping you or someone would review this. Nice write-up bud.

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
March 2nd 2016


5749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

thx man. been a busy week due to exams so i was a bit late on delivery, but here it be.

hal1ax
March 2nd 2016


5475 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

nice review dawg, I've been meaning to listen to this. excited for the sexy track :D

Atari
Staff Reviewer
March 2nd 2016


22087 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

very nice work man, the classical comparisons def have me intrigued

Digging: Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness

LordePots
March 2nd 2016


35764 Comments


knew this would be a johnny review, nice man

Digging: Les Sins - Michael

wtferrothorn
March 2nd 2016


5009 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

beautiful record and nice review to go along with it man. They made you staff for a reason :D

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
March 2nd 2016


5749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

yeah so I can delete wishy washy comments ( ་ ⍸ ་ )



(thanks)

wtferrothorn
March 3rd 2016


5009 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

btw nice "In The Backseat" reference in the summary, just caught that.

Essence
March 3rd 2016


5518 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

album rules, great review as always johnny

Digging: Cultes Des Ghoules - Coven

anatelier
March 3rd 2016


1337 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is invigorating stuff. Handful of really neat little surprises that prevented it from getting exhausting.

zaruyache
March 3rd 2016


15557 Comments


I just put this on my todo list yesterday. Glad to see it lives up to the hype.

ShitsofRain
March 3rd 2016


7758 Comments


oh sweet, now I definitely going to get it

Digging: Arca - Entranas

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2016


5749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

i think some people might find it a bit too light, but i like it. it's a very breezy listen.

ShitsofRain
March 3rd 2016


7758 Comments


i am actually more in the mood for that than techno atm tbh. lust for youth's new songs are really catchy though

Solbrave
March 3rd 2016


574 Comments


hype

Atari
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2016


22087 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

4 tracks in and digging it so far





JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
March 3rd 2016


26074 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

AOTY so far.

Digging: Lord of the Isles - Parabolas Of Neon

wtferrothorn
March 3rd 2016


5009 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The plucked strings on The Glow are sooo good

Atari
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2016


22087 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah there's something really special about her playing that's hard to put a finger on. 'We've Got a Lot' is an early standout for me



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