Evocative and atmospheric. It should come as no surprise that Barbara Trentalange - the voice and creative force behind Trentalange - is also a visual artist.
Lush, moody and provocative, the songs on "Photo Album of Complex Relationships" are cinematic soundscapes built upon instrumentation that includes cello, piano, flute, bass and percussion, with Trentalage's voice - velvety and emotive - as the foundation and centerpiece.
After touring as part of the most recent line-up of Crooked Fingers and fronting the darkly sophisticated Seattle band Spyglass, the chance to write and record her songs was a liberating and intriguing experience. Trentalange wrote, recorded and performed the vast majority of the album herself. Members of Crooked Fingers, Spyglass and Head Like a Kite added flourishes before Trentalange joined producer Martin Feveyear (Rosie Thomas, The Dark Fantastic) and drummer Mark Pickerel (Screaming Trees, Neko Case, Brandi Carlisle) at Seattle's Jupiter Studios to add the finishing touches of drums and vocals.
The resulting 12 songs are indeed striking (and sometimes unsettling) snapshots of lust, longing, terror, grief and loneliness. The relationships in "Photo Album of Complex Relationships" are ones where terms like "darlin" can be bruising and menacing; where the comfort of another's company is fleeting - and sometimes lethal.
If that sounds melodramatic, it's far from it. Lyrics are oblique and understated, and Trentalange's voice is a soothing, hypnotic force. The drama comes from the arrangements - the slow-building dirge of "Rabbit" that, like the hunt portrayed in the song, rises to a finale and climaxes abruptly, or the ghostly backing vocals of "Stand Alone" that underscore a murder hidden in what feels like an upbeat number.
Like any good drama, "Photo Album of Complex Relationships" draws you in and holds your attention until the end. It's a gripping and engaging album from an artist who's come into her own.