British singer-songwriter Bianca Rose releases her debut album at the end of this month, with promising credentials such as performing for PlayStation to co-composing X-Factor contestant Annastasia Baker’s album. It also helps immensely that she managed to snag the jazz musician and producer Femi Temowo who has been responsible for records of Andrea Bocelli, The Roots and Amy Winehouse. Even though it’s been a while since Bianca Rose released her own music (Truth and Tiny Tragedies, 2007), the knowledge and experience she has attained from working behind the scenes is highlighted in her new album.
The album is set up like a narrative. Interludes under the name No Fear Here divide the work into quarters with Bianca Rose telling her story at the beginning and ending, and two other individuals (Carina and Breis) in the other quarters. The music behind the interludes stays the same, with interesting chordal progressions on guitar and Bianca Rose’s airy tone, until the last instance where brass and string sections are included. This structure says a lot about the artist, indicating that her thoughts are expressed with detail and care so the audience can follow along and experience with her.
Hidden makes excellent use of silence in the music while the melody line continues, introducing the rest of the instrumentation. The arrangement was expertly constructed with instruments only being used in small phrases at the right moments, instead of everything playing at once and having to fill in the gaps with inconsequential notes. The ukulele provided a slight change in tone for the next track Eagles. Two of the best bits were when the melody and piano were in unison on the lyrics ‘far flung star’, as well as some good ol’ fashioned ‘na na nas’. One thing I noticed throughout the album was Bianca Rose’s frequent use of triple time signatures. Although it worked for songs such as Wall Paper Painting, it could have developed the tendency to become gimmicky.
When It’s Gone used much the same broken chord sound as Eagles and the No Fear Here interludes. However, the use of pizzicato strings and A cappella singing style made the song unique from the others. The lead single from the album, Because of Love was a stand out song (as you’d expect from a single). Ayanna Witter-Johnson lends her voice and cello to the subtle track, using the string instrument not just as a bass sound but also as a percussive device. Although the lyrics were a little repetitive, the vocalists worked well together.
One thing that became particularly apparent as I listened to the album was the fact that the same musical style was being presented to me in new ways for almost every song. Like The Promise, most songs on the album used broken chords and guitar/ukulele. However, each song added different ideas and instruments to this fundamental sound. The Promise used vocal harmonisation, I Know Who Holds Tomorrow introduced the maracas, and You’re Beautiful was delicately expressed through piano and a unison chorus. All of these tiny details ensured that although at its core it was a fairly simple and repetitive style, it didn’t become simple and repetitive.
Overall I very much enjoyed listening to this album. The record was so expertly produced and the music so intricately arranged that it was a learning experience for me, not only as a reviewer but as a musician. I give it 10/10.
You can pre-order Bianca’s new album here