Time Travel is a mysterious title for the second full album from fecund folk artist Alessi Laurent-Marke, aka Alessi’s Ark. After all, it’s not futuristic, nor is it blatantly retro, and at about 28 minutes total, it’s not like it takes much time to get through it. Having said that, the 12 songs on Time Travel, five of which come in under two minutes, feel far from incomplete. If anything, their short-and-sweetness is a refreshing reminder that Alessi’s Ark hasn’t capsized into a sea of indulgence, unlike some new-folk vessels.
The best thing about Time Travel is that it doesn’t feel deliberately quirky or affected. The country touches don’t feel contrived, the surfy guitar sounds are subtle and Alessi’s voice, though airy, isn’t vacuous. The 20-year-old Londoner actually has more of a vocal range than she’s been given credit for, which is evident on her more languid, dreamy tunes, like the opening song ‘Kind Of Man’ and the musey, woozy ‘Blanket’.
I confess that on my first listen through Time Travel, the most memorable melody was ‘Maybe I Know’, and I was initially dubious about an album whose highlight appeared to be a cover, albeit a charming cover, of a Lesley Gore song. But Alessi’s voice, a cross between Hope Sandoval and Elizabeth Morris, drew me back for multiple hearings and I quickly grew to love the more up-tempo, rhythmic ‘On The Plains’, the can’t-help-but-sway ‘Stalemate’, the instrumental interlude of ‘The Fever’ and the closer, ‘The Bird Song’. Alessi makes some mature, textured, thoughtful choices, like layering certain songs with whistles, horns, ukelele or harp, but in a way that’s organic, not mechanic.
Altogether, Time Travel, which marks Alessi’s transfer from the Virgin label to Bella Union, feels anchored in an authentic appreciation of music. Although it may not exactly transport the listener to another time or place, it does make one pretty glad to be in the present age of folk-pop, especially as Alessi’s Ark will be playing at The Jericho Tavern in a couple of weeks (18th May).
Released on 25th April 2011 by Bella Union