Tara Vanflower

My Little Fire-Filled Heart

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Tara Vanflower's second solo effort continues in the same striking, loving vein as her first -- it's the sound of someone confounding expectations based on her group work to make her own personal, entrancing statement. Certainly there's no mistaking the soft singing and echo that open up the album with "Ligertily" as being anyone or anything but that of the voice that helps make Lycia so lovely, but the fragmentary nature of the song, combined with the soft, backward-masked guitar shards, is miles away from that band's serene, percussion-driven glowering. From there, My Little Fire-Filled Heart suggests a series of contrasts, Vanflower's voice (often singing spiked, sharp words suggesting controlled currents of violence or obsession) contrasting against murky though never overly chaotic collages of sound -- "Silverback" and its clattering bells and buried spoken word samples, for instance, or the Tom Waits-like "cabaret in a coal mine" beats of "A Rusted Nail Through the Wrist" -- or empty, minimal arrangements. Often examples of the latter, such as "Rabbit" or "The Girl from the Green Dimension," work best as songs, since Vanflower's singing provides the core melody on its own, the equivalent of whistling past a graveyard come to unquiet life. Other standouts include the rhythmic grunts and calls underpinning the chants of "Naked King," the rainfall and soft chiming of the 11-minute "When," and the reworking of the traditional song "A Conversation With Death," with Vanflower combining several different ways of singing the words into an overlapping whole. One of the best efforts is an inspired cover of Death in June's "The Honour of Silence," which transitions from the buried shards of sounds in "Rabbit" to include a dark synth drone over which Vanflower sings. It's a striking balance of sounds, with Vanflower harmonizing with herself for even stronger effect.

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