A stunningly beautiful, eye-opening and deeply touching album.
If you’ve ever taken a walk alone through a city street—whether your own or a place new to you—this music will sound strangely familiar and comforting as though you were not by yourself, but joined by a friend, perhaps your bestie, your soulmate. Poems from a City are musings in sound and light, the corners of buildings that slowly reveal what’s hidden, the people we pass sometimes only catching their humanity in a quick glance before we look away and move on towards our destinations.
Norwegian harpist Uno Vesje has walked many a street, perhaps getting more a stare than a glance as he has wheeled his harp through Oslo and New York. An internal and contemplative mood wafts over us at the opening of his disc, perfectly capturing the solitude-amongst-many we feel in crowded, noisy places.
“Every track on the album is a World Premiere Recording,” Vesje proudly states. He uses the opening prelude to invite us to open ourselves to a kind of wonder of sound in this forward-moving and optimistic beginning. I see myself arriving in the new city and placing a potted flowering plant on the windowsill of my walk-up.
The beat gets heavier and the mood as well, in “Footsteps in an Empty Room.” With a tango-tinged beat and drumbeat a la harpist, it feels as though this new arrival has needed to stay indoors from the rain and finds herself in some new environs. Live music where it was unexpected perhaps? Or was that just the radio?
“Next Stop” brings in all the chaos of the street. Things are on the move again until returning to a perch in “Window Dreamer,” a slow, touching adagio.
The title track is a suite of five movements, beginning with the city awakening. Introspective and moody, Uno lets the strings buzz and ring, creating a pleasing clash of timbres, almost like a drawn out raga. This leads to maybe the oddest track on the disc, “Please don’t…” It is, I would guess, what every harpist wants to do with their strings. The effects are stunning, the resolution is a breath of fresh air.
“The harp is the voice of an angel,” harpists likely have heard at least a few times a week. But imagine this heavenly sound juxtaposed with the helplessness and anger of heavily accented locals where every other word is of the four-letter variety. Is there beauty in the rhythm of this? Shockingly, yes.
A stunningly beautiful, eye-opening and deeply touching album. Life—in all its complexity, inscrutability, and inevitability—can somehow still hold us in its thrall when heard through the voice of Uno Vesje.