Prudence Rees-Lee – Court Music From The Planet Of Love
Prudence Rees-Lee is obviously not one for half measures. Rather than easing into life as a solo artist with a cheeky EP or a tentatively monochrome set, she’s gone for an epic, eccentric, pseudo-orchestral, quasi-conceptual debut album, Court Music From The Planet Of Love.
The concept, or quasi concept, is a terrific one. Rees-Lee makes declarations of love in the frailest of whispers, as a great bloom of baroque instrumentation opens out in the background. Strings? You got it. Flutes, A flippin’ harpsichord? Damn straight. It makes for an unusual mix, part Barbarella, part Henry VIII.
While consistent across the board, the album has a few notable peaks in lead single ‘Emmanuelle’ and closing track ‘Morning’. The former rides a strutting harpsichord riff, with more than a touch of Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot about it. The latter sounds like George Harrison waking up after a particularly nourishing evening of transcendental meditation, wide-eyed and madly in love. Rees-Lee offers a beautifully simple lyric, and on a sonically dense album, it is the one track that really opens up.
An aspect of Court Music that may leave some cold is Rees-Lees’ delivery. It’s a breathy whisper, but delivered with a strong lisp that’s endearing or infuriating, depending on your perspective. I tend to think it’s endearing, but it may be a deal-breaker for some. A bigger issue, though, is that Rees-Lee’s band frequently fall out of time across the record. Court Music was recorded in dribs and drabs, and sadly, it shows at points (despite the serious credentials of the players, including the likes of Lehmann B. Smith and Shags Chamberlain). For a record that’s intended as an immersive experience, these not-quite-aligned arrangements really pull at the ear.
Nonetheless, Court Music is a conceptual and compositional show of strength from an artist worth watching.