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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Kathryn Williams presents The Pond - The Pond [One Little Indian - 2012]

As the owner of an exquisite voice, Kathryn Williams is still struggling to be heard in a world where texture, subtlety, and gentleness are continuously devalued by the larger, TV-driven music industry. Her voice is so silky smooth and encapsulating that she could essentially sing the grocery list and still sound captivating. Perhaps best known as a covers artist, and for her years on the edge of the commercial radar more than a decade ago when she was nominated for the Mercury Prize, she now delivers a new project of original material under the name of The Pond with close friends Simon Edwards and Ginny Clee that ultimately straddles the line between coffeehouse folk music and gothic pop. It is music completely out of time and independent from any scene, and anyone but the most jaded and judgmental music listener would have a hard time resisting its allure.

Unfortunately, it’s also not likely to significantly alter the path of Williams’ career. Her fans will absolutely love it. but despite flourishes of cinematic pagan drama (“The River”), dejected blues (“Memory Let Down”), and even hip hop (“Bebop”), The Pond doesn’t quite step far enough outside standard singer-songwriter fare to crossover. Williams’ early description of the project was “more Gorillaz than Guthrie”, but the choice of “Circle Round a Tree” as the lead single, with its faint whiff of Edwards’ ancient work in Fairground Attraction, is not a strong enough example of this. The harmonic interplay between Williams and co-vocalist Clee is lovely, but those expecting something fresh musically will already have started looking elsewhere. And this would be an enormous loss. The stark, percussive exercise in mournful tension that is “End of the Pier” (“You know you’re somewhere different when the water tastes different in your mouth,” Williams sings) or the gorgeously sinister “Carved,” with its layered vocals, fuzz guitar, and striking lyrics (“Morals taste like licorice, dark and strong and sweet; chewed them and spat them out but they stick into my teeth”) might be exactly what they’re looking for.

Lovely voices are far more memorable outside of a lovely context, and as such the album really comes alive when it succumbs to its darker undertones. The Pond is aptly named: on the surface, it reflects natural beauty, but the hint of something fascinating beneath the murk is ultimately more inviting.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Richard T Williams
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