(02 April 2013) Now based in London, Rachel Zeffira is a multi-instrumentalist and classically trained soprano, born in the remote Kootenay region of Canada. After ten years performing as a classical soprano, she formed the band Cat's Eyes in 2010 with Faris Badwan from The Horrors. Their self-titled album was released the following year to widespread acclaim. Zeffira had been hailed as a promising young classical talent. YouTube clips of her recordings remain online appended by visitor comments stating their disappointment in the change of her artistic direction.
Rachel Zeffira has released a stunning debut solo project that we think is her best work to date. Entitled The Deserters (Paper Bags Records (USA) RAF001CD, 2013), the ten-track album was released in Europe in December 2012 and this March in North America. The result demonstrates that Rachel Zeffira's classical training has provided a foundation for this modern masterpiece.
The Deserters is a beautiful, ambitious and richly layered record, entirely written and produced by Zeffira herself. It was recorded at Miloco's The Pool and at Abbey Road Studios alongside engineer Ben Thackeray. The album includes contributions from a studio orchestra as well as members of TOY and S.C.U.Mís drummer Melissa Rigby. Rachel's broad credits on the album include composer, conductor and singer, and for playing English horn, oboe, organ, piano synthesizer, vibraphone, viola and violin.
The album was streamed on National Public Radio's First Listen before the US release and has been enthusiastically received by the music press. The artist has also been praised for her live performances supporting the project around the UK and Europe. Zeffira said, "I wanted to stay true to myself. It's my own album. I'm producing it. I just wanted it to be my own honest thing." A full interview with Rachel Zeffira is scheduled and will be published here later this month.
The label calls the album "a gauzy, rapturous tour de force." It integrates Zeffira's classical foundations with the pop sensibilities she displayed in Cat's Eyes. At times the listener may recall the baroque pop of John Cale and at others the hazy experimentation of My Bloody Valentine. But it is indeed a largely unclassifiable record that stands defiantly alone and apart from many of today's releases. It is certain to appeal to our readers.
The Deserters grew out of Zeffira's early solo recordings, including a cover of My Bloody Valentine's "To Here Knows When" and "Waiting For Sylvia" that she sung, played and orchestrated back in the summer of 2011. The music was greeted enthusiastically by critics and audiences alike so she began to piece together songs for the album when time permitted. We are told that the writing often took place in unexpected locations such as local churches.
In addition to Zeffira's ethereal voice, the most striking sonic component of the record is the orchestration, a central feature that elevates the result into the extraordinary. Rachel has drawn significant acclaim for her multi-instrumentalism and orchestration previously, but the breadth and ambition of her solo album are perhaps even more strikingly impressive.
Lyrical themes of old friends, half-remembered letters and once-known stories that peep through the layers of reverb and instrumentals. The precision of the arrangements could not have come from an artist without Zeffira's extensive musical training. "I can't erase my classical past," says Zeffira. "My favourite piece of music of all time is 'The Swan' by Saint-SaŽns. I've heard it millions of times, but I'll still stop what Iím doing to listen to it until the end." The record has the warmth of an album you know will be a lifelong friend.
Rachel Zeffira's album The Deserters is a rare find. It will be one of the best albums you listen to this year.
A record that will stop you in your tracks and force you to pay attention, it is indeed an astonishing achievement by an increasingly remarkable artist.