Chantal Acda will be better known to some as one half of Sleepingdog, the project she began with ex-Stars Of The Lid man Adam Wiltzie. With her quiet, childlike vocals in a similar vein to early Stina Nordenstam, Acda added a fragile innocence to her musical partner’s minimalist compositions. ‘Let Your Hands Be My Guide’ is her first solo venture.
Acda works with four other musicians on this album but the music is often so spare and uncluttered, those unfamiliar with the artists will wonder what they were doing. No matter, everything is here in the finer details from Gyda Valtysdottir’s cello to Nils Frahm’s sensitive production and contributions from multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick and composer Shahzad Ismaily in between.
‘We Will, We Must’ is an example of the gentle and tender lullabies one would expect from Acda but even though the arrangements are always spare and tasteful, when they do stretch their horizons, lovely things can happen. ‘My Night’, with its gently ringing guitar figure and subtle echo provides a haunting highlight. For ‘Own Time’, Acda’s performance is shiver-inducing in all the right ways and the finale ‘We Must Hold On’ is a sweet experiment in bubbling electronica. Only on ‘Backdrops’ does one sense attention starting to waver and it’s no coincidence that Acda’s voice doesn’t disrupt the ambience and drone until three minutes into the track and when she does the song’s drama and emotional resonance increases tenfold.
‘Let Your Hands Be My Guide’ is a safe bet for any fans of the Sleepingdog albums and one would struggle to find a more comforting album this year. Yet even though Acda benefits from the input of her collaborators, the star is undoubtedly the lady herself with a delivery that is never overdone and never too frail.
Sleepingdog, Stina Nordenstam