Chiara Dubey – Constellations
Orchestral | Baroque Pop
When a having an important discussion, it’s not the voice that shouts the loudest which commands the most respect. Something loud and brash is very good at grabbing your attention, but not at holding it. Instead it’s the quiet voice that everyone defers to. The voice of one who listens more than they speak, so that every word they do utter carries weight. The quiet voice is the one that the whole room stops to listen to, absorbing their words and their meaning. In a way, that same principle applies to music. Trying to turn up the volume to drown out the world will only get you so far. It is only when you take a moment to sit with a piece that’s reposeful and introspective that the whole world fades away around you until there’s nothing left but you and the music.
If you’re looking for just such an escape then the debut album from Swiss artist Chiara Dubey certainly has its fair share of moments that will have you holding your breath and feeling like time is standing still. The contemplative Constellations is awash with elegant orchestration and exquisitely emotive piano. There are even a few tasteful electronic flourishes on tracks like ‘Wonder’ that fit the feel of the arrangements perfectly. All told, Chiara really shines as a composer on this record.
It’s not often that I would single out an album’s instrumental tracks as the highlights, but then again it’s not every day I get sent music that can convey such emotional depth and storytelling without uttering a word. True to its title you’ll find a celestial feeling present in Constellations‘ finest moments. There’s a kind of mournful wonder to ‘Departure’ that feels like what I imagine it would be like for astronauts to see the Earth from on high, both in awe of the sight while also knowing that life will never be the same again. The delicate piano in the sparse opening of ‘Aurora Borealis’ breaks the silence like how the soft twinkling stars above interrupt the vast black empty canvass of space. It’s a gorgeous moment of fragility, and there’s an aura of curiosity to it that feels like staring up at the stars for answers and finding only more questions.
That’s not to say Chiara’s voice doesn’t also get chance to seize the spotlight. Her crystalline vocals set against the backdrop of strings reminds me in places of Iamthemorning. I adore the vulnerability in her voice at the beginning of ‘Microcosm’ with her pensive pleas of “we are so small”, and the stripped back piano led closer ‘Souls’ allows her voice to take centre stage as the most elegant instrument of all. There are a few moments where her vocals also prove to be the album’s Achilles heel however – not in the performance, but the production. On the more pop leaning tracks like ‘The Hunt’ and ‘Parallel Universe’ the vocals feel overly polished and lose a lot of their charm, and the way they’re layered breaks the spell of the “quiet voice” aura that would otherwise draw me in. It seems a shame that the record pushes too hard for your attention in some places when it shows the beauty of the less-is-more mantra so well in others. It is far from a deal-breaker however, and Constellations remains a deeply rewarding listen for anyone inclined toward introspection.