(16 October 2005) Recognized as one of the leading voices in electronic music and a pioneer in the early 90s trance music scene, Kirsty Hawkshaw has finally come full circle with the release of The Meta-Message (Nettwerk Productions (USA/Canada) 2005). It is an absolutely stunning collection of some of her best collaborations and unreleased material.
Kirsty first came to prominence as the front-woman for ambient/trance outfit Opus III. Their track "Fine Day," became a global smash and helped usher in a new era of electronic dance music. Thereafter, discerning artists and DJs such as Orbital, Spooky, BT, DJ Tiesto, Clashing Egos, Sandor Cardon, Swayzak, Pole Folder, Silent Poets, Slovo and Hybrid tapped Kirsty to provide vocals for a wide-range of projects.
In 2000, Kirsty surprised fans when she released her acclaimed solo album On Ultimate Things (O.U.T). Moving away from her dance roots and showcasing Kirsty's considerable songwriting skills, O.U.T. remains a beautiful collection of thought-provoking tracks that would appeal to fans of Tori Amos or Sarah McLachlan.
With such an extensive body of work, Kirsty decided to release The Meta-Message, a restrospective album of sorts that features some of her most well-known collaborative efforts and some new tracks as well. The upbeat yet contemplative "Just Be Me" opens the album. Re-recorded and re-released as "Just Be" with DJ Tiesto, this original version of the song is arguably more engaging than the Tiesto version.
James Holden's recent remix of the original "Fine Day" is a vibrant and contemporary take on the original track that first brought Kristy's voice to a worldwide audience. With spacious ambience and throbbing electro pulses, "Fine Day" is as gorgeous a listen as it was over a decade ago. Kirsty shifts gears with "Reach for Me," a mature and catchy acoustic/pop number in the vein of Michelle Branch or Sheryl Crowe. Returning to blissful ambience on the dreamy Delerium collaboration, "Nature's Kindgom," Kirsty's unconventional but always breathtaking voice reaches angelic heights.
Two Tiesto collaborations follow: "Walking on Clouds" is a club-friendly number with heavy kicks and high-hats sure to please fans of melodic trance while "Battleship Grey" is a stark and chilled-out downtempo piece of epic proportions.
"Sincere for You" is a sweeping club masterpiece featuring arp synths and a driving groove. The quirky and cinematic track "Blackout" is one of Kirsty's most acclaimed collaborations, this time with Hybrid. With a backing tribal beat and swelling string lines, Kirsty's voice soars with intensity and passion.
The DJ Sam collaboration "Split" is arguably one of the standout tracks--beginning with adagio-flavored strings and Kirsty's lush recitation, the song moves into ghostly territory with a chillout beat and swaths of electronic accents. When Kirsty sings: "For I must learn to live no longer as a fugitive; and I will endure bravely the space you left in me" one can feel the genuine heartbreak of the moment.
"All I Want" returns the listener to familiar "trance-Kirsty" territory with strong programming, undeniably addicting hooks and intelligent lyrics. "Beautiful Danger" feels like a companion piece to "Split" with a seductive beat and trippy energy. The closing track, "Whisper" is a Dido-esque piece of positivity that Kirsty performs with Slovo. Easy-going acoustic guitar and a jaunty beat make this sunny track a pleasing wrap up to the album.
It is hard to pinpoint what is about Kirsty Hawkshaw's voice that is so appealing. It may be the genuineness and clarity of her voie...or possibly its lovely range and unique character. Whatever it is, let's hope that with the release of The Meta-Message, many more will have the opportunity
to hear one of the most talented female artists working today.--Justin Elswick in Provo, Utah and Russ Elliot in New York