While enrolled in a film-scoring program at Montreal-based McGill University, Lydia Ainsworth started recording audio sketches to pass the time between working on larger compositional projects. These sketches slowly took on a life of their own, with the self-taught cellist blending her background in composition and arrangement with a love of experimental pop sounds from many different eras. Ainsworth silently kept up work on these pop experiments, returning to them often for several years until they eventually resulted in the eight songs that make up her debut Right from Real. While her talent at string arrangement comes through immediately on the lively layers of cello on opening track “Candle,” the song soon takes a much more striking turn when a barrage of cut-up vocal samples come in, intertwining themselves with the song’s rumbling drums to become an integral part of the rhythm. An avant-garde approach to manipulating various vocal tracks meshes with shadowy, minimal electronic productions and a core of deeply moving songwriting for an album that’s dense, troubled, and constantly morphing into different forms. The pop elements are never overshadowed by Ainsworth's classical or experimental leanings. Instead, there’s a deft synthesis that brings to mind some of the greats that came before her, with glacial music box samples and lush instrumentation on “White Shadows” recalling Vespertine-era Björk, and the eerie lurch of “Hologram” reflecting Kate Bush's acrobatic vocal lines and twilight-colored atmospheres. The synth lines and looming beat that serve as a backbone for standout track “Malachite” bring to mind the more indie work of Ainsworth's contemporaries like Grimes or FKA Twigs, but the spliced Gregorian chant-styled backing vocals and rubber-band synth tones that get introduced midway set the song apart, injecting the production strangeness of acts like the Art of Noise into what could have been a by-the-numbers electro pop single. There’s a versatility that Ainsworth controls perfectly throughout Right from Real as she blends her unlikely combinations into endlessly engaging sonic portraits that are often staggering in their cold, weird beauty.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas