Saturday, December 8, 2007

CD Review: Ariel Storm

Ariel Storm
Kai Ariel and Ariana Storm
Carefree and Bohemian Records

Someone out there has described the work of Northern California duo Kai Ariel and Ariana Storm as "Ambient Dreampop." Ambient? Certainly-- the CD is textured beautifully, with the extraordinarily rich voice of vocalist Ariana Storm at times embedded in lush arrangements, often of her own voice multi-tracked and punctuated by her own piano playing. Dreamy-- I can buy that. There is something more here than pop music, however.

The lyrics penned by the duo wedge themselves too deeply into your heart to be dismissed as pop.

Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of pop music I like. But this isn't anything like pop.

The songs have a strongly ambient feel to them; the melody is carried by Storm's vocals, accented by almost surgical percussion, guitars, and bass by the multi-instrumentalist Ariel. It is Storm's voice that is the lead instrument. But it is her lyrics that are deeply personal and self-revealing, and challenge the listener, such as in the tune 'Rich Man'.

Who do you run from

I’m not so serene

I want to be somewhere
I’m not demeaned
I want to be something

Other than mad
Could I be here
With a little more heaven

Storm is a woman prepared to ask us and herself difficult questions, to challenge assumptions, to advocate for herself. She is also a person who recognizes that value is not what sits in your bank account; value is found in human relationships, and that some qualify as transcendent. In her song 'Lucky', Storm expresses a vulnerability that is under-girded by her willingness to risk sharing herself, unconditionally; more than that, she is aware of it.

"So rare to find someone
Who’ll talk it out when you trespass

Or they do

I’m afraid sometimes

To let it in let it in
How good it can be
I’m so lucky
To know you"

In the world of Ariel Storm, and lyricist Ariana Storm, (an award-winning songwriter), you will not be lulled to sleep by an ambient confection; Storm is too forceful and passionate a songwriter to take the easy way out. Jump into the CD, and you are entering into a dialogue with two skilled musicians, who will assert themselves, challenge you; at times discomfort you. But there is nothing superficial about Ariel Storm; despite the sheer beauty of Storm's vocals, and the masterful multi-tracking of them that recurs throughout the CD, the songs possess their own depth. Each is confessional; sometimes those confessions emanate from the writer, but more often, they are the whisperings in the heart of the listener.

And yet, for all of the introspective and emotional content on the CD, it ends with an oddly festive, simple tune, 'They Are Not As Many,' with lyrics fitting this moment, 27 years tonitght removed from the death of John Lennon.

"Come on come on

Come on now

Let it be
Away away
Away now

Those who refuse
Open heart
Make it better
One world

Together in Love"

One world. Together. In Love.

Lennon would have liked that.

This Compact Disc is well worth listening to. It is strong, very strong lyrically, with the ability to draw you in and make you think deep and hard. There is nothing about the transparency of Storm's lyrics that will let the listener off easy-- it's your life she is singing about, as well as her own. The musicianship is first rate, and the arrangements serve the lyrics, which in turn are delivered by a strong vocals

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