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Review | "Meijer makes even the thorniest of passages sound like second nature"

by Olivia Giovetti, VAN Magazine

Dutch harpist Lavinia Meijer, whose Philip Glass album was one of my favorite releases of 2016 both for its performance and curation. Meijer’s follow-up on Sony allows her roving curiosity and capacity for discovering sonic connections to grow. It also furthers her mission of exploring the harp as a contemporary instrument, rather than preserving it as a divining rod for the past.

Some of the strongest compositions on “Are You Still Somewhere?” are Meijer’s own, including the title track, which twirls around a Michel Legrand-ian sense of rue and nostalgia. Even better is the ineffable “Another Lonely Night.” The evening hours plod heavy-footed in the bassline, and there’s the sense of something stagnant in the air; like the midnight hours of a sleepless July evening in a New York City apartment whose air conditioning has failed. A sense, too, of Justina Jaruševičiūtė’s wolf hour. It pairs well with pianist-composer Lambert’s “Stay in the Dark” and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “Solitude,” three works that get at the heart of being alone and the fine line between companionable seclusion and clammy isolation.

If this is an underlying current of “Are You Still Somewhere?,” it is rendered more literal in the final track, with a spoken-word text by Iggy Pop. The godfather of punk’s unmistakable voice, all gravel and smoke, growls out “Hustle and bustle, baby.” And the two are off. At times, Meijer mimics his cadence in a sort of sprechstimme line. At others, she offsets his woebegone monotone with the sort of pixelated emotional intensity that will sound familiar from her work with Philip Glass. It’s a moving marriage of opposites as Pop moves through a narrative of generational inheritance and loss: “Mom and dad are gone, and I’m not gonna get used to it. I’ll never accept it. I’m gonna find them,” he says at one point, before he underlines the core theme of the entire album: “I have a voice to call out…‘Are you still somewhere?’”

Throughout all of this Meijer makes even the thorniest of passages sound like second nature. Given the inevitability of us all eventually being alone, this virtuosity is a comfort.

Click here to listen to "Are You Still Somewhere?" on Youtube.

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