Clara Hill

Walk the Distance

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Clara Hill's previous album, released six years prior to this one, was titled Sideways, and this could be called Many Other Ways -- a fragmentary, whimsical trip through several styles, none of which resemble the sweeping broken beat or elevating folk-soul of her past. Walk the Distance, recorded with Thomas Bucker, Hanno Leichtmann, Schneider TM, and a small number of other instrumentalists, certainly lacks the focus and brightness of Hill's 2007 album. It sounds like it was pieced together from several sessions spanning several years, with Hill too restless, or perhaps too apprehensive, to stick to one approach. However, there are a few sweet surprises, and a couple of them would make for fine singles. "Dripstone Cave" is melodic and bopping mid-fi electro-pop, resembling an early Lali Puna demo in the best possible way, while the ragged and slightly spaced-out "Lost Winter" evokes a not-as-spooky Broadcast. On several ambient cuts, like the album's introduction and conclusion, as well as "Insomnia" and "Walk the Distance," Hill uses her voice more as an instrument or additional texture. For listeners expecting an album that resembles a fluid continuation of Hill's first three albums, something filled with "proper songs" that showcases her songwriting and soothing melodies, this could be a major disappointment. They'll be puzzled, at the least, about the six minutes of barely-there ambient wash attached to the gentle acoustic ballad "Glacial Moraine." Regardless, this is a fascinating series of turns for Hill, whose adventurousness will hopefully remain.

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