Thursday, 26 September 2013

EP REVIEW: Alana Henderson - Wax & Wane

"Electrifying" title track is the highlight of a hugely innovative and interesting recording

It is uncharacteristic for the cello to be much more than a backing or background instrument (or a hindrance-turned-benefit, if you're Timothy Dalton's James Bond), but Dungannon's Alana Henderson has taken it to the forefront in her four-track debut EP, Wax & Wane.

And the first thing you notice about her brand of "cello pop" is the studious thoughtfulness that has gone into her compositions. Four minutes into the EP and she's a mistress of her craft, with a voice worthy of Joni Mitchell nestling alongside bitterly poetic lyrics and inventive string melodies.

The title track is a summation of the reflective nature of the whole recording, a series of alternately fragile or weary refrains fading into innovative vocal harmonies - the generally warm warbling of a once smitten, later bitten but now extremely well-written woman. It’s electrifying, and enough to make the whole EP worth purchasing by itself, but Henderson has much more to offer us.

Bookended by Irish Trad fiddling from Laura Wilkie, "The Tower" ingeniously mixes a foot-stomping groove with a cautionary tale of lost love, the need for familial support and rebuilding one's life. It isn't quite as multi-dimensional as the song that precedes it, but its titillating bluesiness still gets under your skin.

Now, imagine if Kate Nash or Ellie Goulding played string instruments on a regular basis, and you'd have "Song About A Song", arguably the most personal tune on the record. After hearing both this and the last song on the EP, "Two Turtle Doves", it becomes clear why Henderson has successfully collaborated with dreamily indie Belfast ensemble The Jepettos, her style and approach lending itself perfectly to their sensibilities.

By the time we hear Henderson's dulcet, soulful tones fade out for the last time, one senses that this end is only the beginning for this hugely promising young artist.

Listen to and purchase Wax & Wane at Bandcamp.