Review: Alison Cotton – All Is Quiet at the Ancient Theatre (Bloxham Tapes, Jul 15)

The only thing that does a better job of crafting a vivid environment than the title of Alison Cotton’s new album is the music itself. All Is Quiet at the Ancient Theatre is a mysterious, spacious album; one of the first things I noticed is the cavernous, reverb-filled production, which frames the sounds throughout in much the same way as I imagine a high-ceilinged, shadowy, dusty chapel would. Cotton’s drones, played on viola, recorder, and her own voice, ring out through the darkness, coexisting with the weighty silence as they materialize and dissipate. The compositions are lushly layered but not in a boring way; instead of simply piling each note and instrument on top of each other, Cotton operates each element individually, bringing them in and out separately to create shifting complexity with only a few components. The album is only about 35 minutes, and it’s over way too soon. I felt myself wanting Cotton to utilize her powerful voice more; the mainly vocal piece “The Bells of St. Agnes” and the latter part of the eponymous opener are hands down the record’s best moments, and they introduced a great contrast without disrupting the hypnotic atmosphere. Regardless, All Is Quiet at the Ancient Theatre is a fantastic solo effort, capturing both the majesty of an orchestra and the intimacy of a single performer.