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Aisha Burns

Life in the Midwater (Western Vinyl)

Reviewed by Abby Johnston, Fri., Sept. 27, 2013

Texas Platters

Aisha Burns

Life in the Midwater (Western Vinyl)

Aisha Burns adds violin and occasional vocals to local orchestral-folk sextet Balmorhea, and now offers her solo debut. Caught in the sea change indicated by its title, the album equivocates between demure vulnerability and a steadfast self-assuredness. At times, that thrust can be misleading. Opener "Sold" stretches Burns' normally rich growl into upper octaves, overwhelmed as soon as her signature stringed instrument joins the acoustic guitar strums. Next, on the title cut, Burns reins in the nuances of sparse six-string accompaniment and lets her croon take the limelight. Ultimately, Life in the Midwater shines when the chamber-pop flourishes Burns adds to Balmorhea break through in her own writing. Standouts "Shelly" and "Destroyer" become lush and rich with layers, featuring Andrew Bird-worthy violin pulls, yet amid the sweeping flurry, the singer's vocal lament remains the most gripping element. Though her best songwriting comes in the same vein, Aisha Burns has successfully mapped a musical identity separate from Balmorhea, even if it's caught in the midwater.

***

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