Carl Cleves & Parissa Bouas – Halos ‘Round The Moon – Stockfisch

Carl Cleves & Parissa Bouas – Halos ‘Round The Moon – Stockfisch Records Stereo-only SACD SFR 357.4081-2, 47:08 [3/3/14] ****:

(Parissa Bouas – guitar, vocals; Carl Cleves – guitar, vocals; Ian Melrose – guitars, flutes; Ulrike Dangendorf – accordion; Lucille Chaubard – violincello; Heiko Ahrens – guitar; Lea Morris – backing vocals; Beo Brockhausen – soprano saxophone, percussion; Alessandro Gulino – electric bass; Hans-Jorg Maucksch – fretless bass)

Stockfisch Records has established a reputation for supporting independent genre-bending artists with state-of-the-art production. Under the aesthetic leadership of Gunter Pauler, high-grade SACD music showcases singer/songwriters in a natural acoustic environment. Two of these artists, Carl Cleves and Parissa Bouas, epitomize this musical direction. Their 2010 release, Out Of Australia explored global themes and instrumentation. Backed by an impeccable cadre of Stockfisch session players, the blend of gossamer sounds and social commentary was intriguing.

Their newest release, Halos ‘Round The Moon continues the journey. Against a simple backdrop of guitar, “Aheyla-I Rejoice” is a multi-tracked harmonious vocal hymn. With a repetitive chorus, there are flute accents (Ulrike Dangendorf) that add depth. Bouas possesses an ethereal voice that encapsulates the haunting emotion of this song. Cleves and Lea Morris expand the background with their vocals. Shifting gears, “Sad Eyes” has a loping, jazzy feel as a tale of romantic woe unfolds. But the vocal textures are still rich and warm. Cleves weighs in on loneliness (“The House Is Empty”) as Beo Brockhausen lends vintage shading on soprano saxophone.

Folk roots are prevalent throughout the album. A waltz-time reflection, “Four Extraordinary Days” invokes a playful celebration of the arts. Like many of the tracks, the cohesive, harmonic backup singing frames Bouas’ lead vocals. In a similar time signature, “You Inspire Love” utilizes acoustic guitar and stacked vocals with meticulous arrangement. The title cut is introspective, and creates poetic imagery to describe the challenge of overcoming adversity. Cleves and Bouas have ample chemistry when they sing together. Their harmony on “Leaving Byron Bay” (with Cleves singing lead) and “Nothing’s Gonna Last Forever” (Bouas handling the lead) resonates. The finale (“The Full Force Of The Wind”) reminds the listener of Bouas’ graceful style. The straightforward guitar is enhanced by a simple soprano saxophone accompaniment.

Halos ‘Round The Moon is a thoughtful folk album. The sound quality of the SACD is excellent. All of the voices (especially Bouas and Morris) are captured with clarity and mellow fluidity. The mix has superior overall balance.

TrackList: Aneyla-I Rejoice; Sad Eyes; The House Is Empty; Four Extraordinary Days; Your Lesson To Me; Dear Melanie; You Inspire Love; Halos ‘Round The Moon; Leaving Byron Bay; Nothings Gonna Last Forever; All Alone; The Full Force Of The Wind

–Robbie Gerson

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