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While The One and the Other is just Canadian vocalist-composer Lara Solnicki’s third recording, it contains more elements than many artists manage to explore in an entire career. The album combines poetry, jazz, classical music and rock into a dizzying compendium. But those prepared to plumb its depths will discover treasures aplenty within its overstuffed confines.
As a singer, Solnicki is an expressive wonder. Her delivery is marked by a precision that allows her to infuse meaning into every syllable, like the way she pronounces “quandary” in the opening cut, “Bit Her Sweet Christopher Street.” There’s quite a bit going on during this eight-minute-plus opus — luxurious pianistics from Jonathan Goldsmith, oddly affecting alto sax injections courtesy of Peter Lutek, and a guitar solo by Rob Piltch so fuzzy that it cries out for a shave. But Solnicki’s evocative descriptions of New York’s famed West Village park still manage to dominate the proceedings.
The next tune, “Idée Fixe,” opens with Solnicki’s lovely trilling before segueing into an oddball joust between Lutek and Goldsmith, with bassist Scott Peterson trying his best to tie the disparate parts together. “The Embrace” contains hints of cabaret that are subverted by unexpected splashes from Lutek’s electro-acoustic clarinet, while “Furling Leaf, Retrocede” offers vivid spoken-word imagery — Solnicki points to “a sunset’s final 5-degree hiss” — that evolves into a chaotic whirl of words and racket. It’s the perfect introduction to the title track, a three-part suite about love that’s like European art song on a bender. There are strange sound effects and theatrical onomatopoeia one minute, gorgeously crooned songcraft the next.
Solnicki hurls an incredible number of ideas throughout The One and the Other, and inevitably, some miss the target. But when she hits a bullseye, the impact is thrilling.