Tartaruga isn’t the most prolific of labels, but every release is lavish in both packaging and content (the above scan is from the promo – the real thing comes in a hand crafted card sleeve, stitched, silk-screened and with an insert). The label has an arts and crafts ethos, with each CD being designed as an work of art in itself. Previous releases by Bleeding Heart Narrative and Brassica have had musical content to match.
Third up is My Sister, Boudicca by Quinta (so named by her classics teacher dad because she was the fifth of five siblings). It’s a record of quite stunning grace and beauty, but also wildly inventive and playful. All self-played, you can tell that she loves exploring sound, and the objects that make it. No two tracks share the same instrumentation, but there’s never a feeling of clutter or that anything is not intrinsic to the piece. Organ, violin, viola, clarinet, musical saw, accordion, various toys and a variety of percussion are all used, but everything fits perfectly.
The music is as varied and original as the instruments used to make it. Approximately half vocal pieces and half instrumentals, the underlying theme is a mixture of gentle humour and wistful nostalgia. Quinta’s singing voice has a slightly wobbly purity to it that reminds me of Shirley Collins or Virginia Astley. On the album’s title song, it’s multi-tracked to stunning effect. On “James and the Ocean” there is a folkish air that is redolent of the pastoral adaptations of A E Housman’s poems by George Butterworth and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Elsewhere, the spirits of Steve Reich, múm, and Rachel’s are evoked, but only ever in a tangential fashion.
The album lacks any stand out tracks only because the standard is so uniformly high. “Supernova” is slightly spooky, an organ led piece with some space-age effects, while “Reading to Me” features accordion, viola, saw and someone (her mum?) reading a cake recipe, with odd asides. “In America” is the nearest thing to a straight pop tune (it has drums and everything), but still has an off-kilter melancholy about it. Things end with “At the Top of Bear Hill”, a symphony for toy instruments that includes swanee whistle, recorder, whistling, hand claps, bird song and other stuff I couldn’t identify. It may sound twee, but isn’t. It has a sweet charm – something that the whole album possesses in spades.
My Sister, Boudicca is a beautiful, witty and original record that delights from beginning to end. It’ll be issued on April 13th as a limited edition of 200 hard copies, although a download will also be available.
01 They Come, The Burning
02 James And The Ocean
03 Two Dead Birds
04 My Sister, Boudicca
05 Reading To Me
06 The Finest Riddle
08 Sunday’s Child
09 In America
10 The Ballad Of The Ice Dancer
11 At The Top Of Bear Hill