Vienna Teng : Dreaming Through the Noise CD
Experimental singer-songwriter Vienna Teng arrives at her ambitious third album at the peak of her considerable powers, with renowned producer/bassist Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Madeleine Peyroux) providing a more textured and atmospheric landscape. Contributions from musicians Jay Bellerose (Paula Cole, Duncan Sheik), Carla Kihlstedt (Tom Waits), and Marc Orton (Bill Frisell) make Teng's piano-based, jazzy chamber-folk shiver with new intimacy. But at the core, she remains as seductive and transcendent as ever, even as lyrically she takes more of a storytelling approach.
Marrying complex melodies and moody tones to captivating lyrics about fevered longings, unspoken truths, and uncharted suffering, the former software engineer pulls listeners into a secret, subterranean world that is often as murky and disturbing as it is wondrous. On "Whatever You Want," a dutiful "company man" and his perfect wife pull back the curtain to reveal a disquieting darkness. In "I Don't Feel So Well," an unbalanced woman issues a provocative warning to a potential lover ("I thought you should know before you fall"). And on "Now Three," delicate cello lines play off a nearly mystical lyric about prenatal knowing.
Teng delivers all 11 offerings in a chillingly pure soprano, multitracking her own voice 32 times on the Hurricane Katrina-inspired (if also overlong and ponderous) "Pontchartrain" to achieve something reminiscent of a Latin liturgical piece. Not yet 28 and frighteningly gifted ("Lake Pontchartrain is haunted: Bones without names, photographs framed in reeds"), Teng seems to know your own soul better than you do--the exquisitely beautiful "Recessional," which inspires the album title, may make you rethink your whole life. The album's most uplifting and hopeful cut: "City Hall," inspired by San Francisco's decision in 2004 to recognize gay marriage. ("Ten years waiting for this moment of fate / When we say the words and sign our names / If they take it away someday / This beautiful thing won't change.") Count Dreaming Through the Noise among the "can't miss" records of 2006. --Alanna Nash
1. [3:54] Blue Caravan
2. [3:59] Whatever You Want
3. [5:10] Love Turns 40
4. [4:14] I Don't Feel So Well
5. [4:46] City Hall
6. [3:36] Nothing Without You
7. [3:44] Transcontinental, 1:30AM
8. [3:59] 1 BR / 1 BA
9. [3:02] Now Three
10. [6:13] Pontchartrain
11. [4:05] Recessional
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