Exclaim!'s Top 10 Improv & Avant-Garde Albums Best of 2016



 
Sarah Neufeld
The Ridge
(Paper Bag)
 
Sarah Neufeld already occupied a unique space in the music world by wielding her virtuosic violin skills both in the pop context of Arcade Fire and as a soloist. But after recording her debut, 2013's Hero Brother, in far-off destinations with experimental minimalist Nils Frahm, she's added a texture to her sophomore album not often associated with classical-leaning music: youthful jubilance.
 
Neufeld herself has said that the record felt "really connected to the idea of youth energy… this crackling, sparkling, on-the-edge-of-something energy," and it's audible throughout The Ridge, from the bright, twisting "We've Got a Lot" to the kinetic flurry of "From Our Animal." For the first time, Neufeld introduces her airy mezzo-soprano to the mix here, adding humanity and life to her already vivacious compositions, but as usual, it's her ingenious approach to playing her instrument that really fascinates.
 
The Ridge is the sound of a master stretching out and finding that challenging, mind-expanding music can be joyful, too.
Stephen Carlick