Stylus is on vacation today, but we won't be taking President's day off. See you Monday!

Tara Jane O
You Sound, Reflect


e open on a lone organ, a simple pattern of three notes, repeated four times. A muted electric guitar strum fades in, acting as percussion. Another guitar plays two chords to announce that the song is underway. Gradually a bass, a gently plucked guitar and a wordless voice enter and circle each other cautiously without ever committing to a melody. A few minutes later, the key shifts to a minor figure, but the instruments resist cohering any further. And following a brief return to our initial major theme, the song ends abruptly.

Tara Jane O'Neil is the resident journey(wo)man and ultimate insider of Louisville, Kentucky's indie rock scene. Since the emergence and premature demise of Rodan ten years ago, she has been a full-time member of the Sonora Pine and others, played on albums by Sebadoh, Come, Papa M and others, and released a number of solo albums. The sound of her work has slowly and surely traced a path returning to the earth, as though evolving in reverse. The spare, rootsy sounds of her latest could be cast as the generations-old origin of Rodan's abrasive prog-hardcore.

While most of the songs on You Sound, Reflect aren't quite as vague as the opener described above, the scene is effectively set for the remainder of the album. The instrumentation is simple and organic, the production crisp and transparent. The songwriting is open-ended enough to incorporate the occasional detour, but neither the arrangements nor the players ever stray too far.

The album opens and closes with (mostly) instrumentals. There are brief instrumentals sprinkled throughout the album, between longer, more fully-realised compositions. And, in a way, all of the tracks are like instrumentals. O'Neil's voice, often double-tracked to create close harmonies with itself, is mixed as though it were just another colour on the album's sonic palette, floating just below the music's surface. Her voice dissolves among the slowly strummed guitar, brushed drums and mournful fiddle. The words fall away and there are only sounds and melodies, creating an illusion of intimacy that ultimately leaves the listener alone, but not lonely.

While her style could easily be used to convey hopeless despair or romantic warmth, O'Neil aims for neither. Rather than painting characters and emotions, she shows us places. Here is the sound of vast mountains. Here, a dense forest. Here, the sky on a dark, clear night. Throughout, the album bespeaks a solitude that is meant to be savoured while it lasts.

Reviewed by: Bjorn Randolph

Reviewed on: 2004-08-26

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