As I began to read through the short bio of singer/songwriter Vienna D'Amato Hall I became excited almost immediately. Hall began her musical career in New York City self-releasing her debut album It’s What the Dog Saw in 2015.
It wasn’t that part that got me excited, but rather what I read next, that she was then hired as a singer and lyricist for a production of Chekov’s play The Cherry Orchard which was being performed at the Actors Studio and starring the brilliant actress Ellyn Burstyn. Ellen Burstyn doing Chekov. I would have given my right arm to be an usher at those performances.
In an even stranger turn of events I just so happened to be reading a piece on Leonard Cohen in the latest issue of the New Yorker just before I sat down to listen to Hall’s latest record, Red Light Temple. Within the first few notes I thought to myself “she sounds like a female version of Leonard Cohen,” and then, one cannot make these things up, I stumbled by diving accidentally on to a cover of the Cohen classic “Famous Blue Raincoat.” Hall’s version is disparate yet just as haunting and achingly beautiful. Equally so is her cover of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.”
Hall seems to borrow a bit of these former master musicians cadences on Red Light Temple though her originals are all her own. The opener “Violet Sky” opens quietly with soft and gentle folk pluckings before exploding like a raincloud in a focused temper of grungy rock and doldrumatic melodies. “King of Keys” builds on this and turns out a raucous storm of gothic synth-rock.
Trying to describe it just doesn’t do it justice. But on “Joshua and Me” there are peaks and valleys of soft rock layered over with droning guitars and rippling synthetic keys and one begins to understand that Hall’s pallet is the musical equivalent of Jackson Pollack’s. Take then the English folk essences backed by a gothic symphony and Hall’s soft yet tense story-telling lyrics that make up “Godless Man.”
Later comes the bristling soft piano ballad “Southern Cross.” Then comes the upbeat folk-pop beginnings of “Closer than Skin,” which builds into a beautiful swell of noise and then drops down into the slow and and savory fairytale that is “On the West.”
With Red Light Temple Vienna D'Amato Hall bends and blends multiple genres together at her whim. She fuses goth, alternative rock, classical elements and grunge. Her vocals however remain deeply rooted in folk. Nothing here ever sounds forced. A musical alchemist Hall finds within each separate facet the elements which agree with one another making each element precious.
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