Published Jan 16, 2019Portland, OR's Sage Elaine Fisher has delivered an elegant, purposefully innovative recording that features vocals, harp and a healthy dose of electronic processing. It is about as far from a singing harpist album that we can imagine a singing harpist producing.
Under the name Dolphin Midwives, Fisher "explores themes of empathy, natural cycles, vulnerability, transformation and technology" according to the album's notes — pretty high-concept stuff. But the real appeal of Liminal Garden has less to do with big ideas. It works because of Fisher's crystal-clear voice and compositional ingenuity.
We begin with "Grass Grow," an airy vocal piece featuring lightly applied electronics and a few well-placed digital edits. It sets the bar high for what follows.
Fisher's harp makes its first appearance on track two, "Junglespell." It won't be immediately obvious to listeners what it is. That's partly a result of the opening number's abstract structure, which strikes an emotional chord rather than an analytical one. It's also because as it progresses, the harp becomes less and less recognizable.
The eight tracks that follow maintain an open, often gentle feel. It's more than background music though. The edits will grab your attention repeatedly and the electronic treatments are somehow both jarring and soothing at the same time.
Fisher continues to gain momentum with her work since launching the Dolphin Midwives project in 2016. After a six-month residency for the Oregon College of Art and Craft and Pacific Northwest College of Art's joint Applied Craft & Design program, she presented NATURAPHONES, an installation made up of four acoustic sculptures, an ambient performance and a series of sculptural prototypes. Last year, she composed an updated score for Night of the Living Dead. (Sounds Et Al)