Still Still (Which Way Music)
Recorded at Headgap studios June 27-28 2011
Review by Leon Gettler
Gian Slater is every vocalist’s dream. Her voice has a pristine, almost child-like, purity. She approaches the voice like an instrument, a vehicle for conveying lyrics. She started out emulating instrumentalists, horn players when she studied at the VCA where she got into the hybrid of jazz and other styles. Her opera singer father did not want her to study singing until she was about 16, encouraging her to develop her own natural style to sing like herself and with her own sound, without the affectation and embellishments that other singers might have if they want to sound like someone else.
Slater has received several awards, commissions and scholarships and has released albums in her own name as well as working with other artists like Andrea Keller and Barney McAll and Jamie Oehlers.
Her latest album Still Still, featuring all original tracks, is nothing short of captivating listening. It’s very much a family album with her brother Nathan Slater on guitar and partner Christopher Hale on the six-string bass.
You hear it right from the start on the title track where it’s just Slater’s voice soaring over the guitar. It’s a piece that provides moments of deep reflection in a frenetic world, drawing heavily from a folk idiom and blending it into an unmistakeably jazz sound as it moves through shifting moods. Her voice just laps against the timbre of her brother’s pure and clean guitar sound, full of lyricism. Just dreamy vocals and a poetic soul create the feeling of a warm enclave and shelter.
‘Engines On’ is a song where she is trying to keep herself going on the way to work. ). The power of this piece comes from the lyrics against the bass in the beginning. (Round and round in circles/Chasing tail, trying not to drop the ball/Feeling like your battery’s gone dead/And you can’ t cope at all/Just turn your engines on/Keep on keeping on/Don’t let them think they’ve won/Turn your engines on.) The sparseness of sound has a real impact on the listener, until the voice and bass are met half way with a beautiful and lyrical guitar solo, completing the logic of the piece.
The addition of Luke Moller on violin adds an extra dimension here. He creates an extra depth of sound on ‘Before Sleep’ against the guitar and voice. It’s nothing flash but an important sound that extends the depth. The violin is really brought out on ‘Who you really are’ with a solo that sounds distinctly gypsy and European.
Part of the beauty of this album is the way it captures everyday scenes, her distinctive voice imbuing them with a crystalline purity and her poetry communicating the ordinary with wonderful colours.
One good example is ‘Hold your own hand’ where she deals with everyday panic. Set against the guitar, the song has a real depth of sound that holds the listener, the poetry does the rest. (“Calm down/think of a garden). Or ‘An hour ago’ which captures the way someone instantly connects with a stranger in a crowded room.
In the end, it’s a mix of the voice with the instrumentalists and her poetic soul that give this album that edge.
Gian Slater – Voice
Nathan Slater – Nylon String Guitar
Christopher Hale – 6 String acoustic Bass guitar
Luke Moller – violin (Tracks 3, 4 and 6)
Gian Slater’s website gianslater.com