Rebecca Clamp’s latest album sees her join forces with Hans Wessels to create a delightfully emotive and beautifully arranged collection of original songs…
Lit Up With Sorrow is Rebecca Clamp‘s third album to date and the second to be recorded in and inspired by her adopted home of Finland. This time she is joined by the considerable talents of her partner and collaborator, Hans Wessels. The album builds on Clamp’s already established reputation as a fine original songwriter. Her debut, Nocturnal Leap getting some rave reviews (5 stars R2). Her last album Key to The City earned a 4 star review in R2/Rock’n’Reel and prompted Rychard Carrington (R2/Moving Tone) to comment, “Rebecca Clamp’s music is like the very finest of wines.” Neil King of FATEA noted, “Rich in description and tone, the simple combination of Ms Clamp’s voice and piano are at times deeper than a school of philosophers and far easier to listen to.”
This album is distinctly, and rather wonderfully different. Clamp has retained her trademark quirkiness and optimism throughout the lyrics (despite some of the songs exploring darker themes) but it is the depth and breadth of the arrangements that really strike the listener – electronic percussion and instrumentation, plucked strings of ukulele and guitar, Clamp’s distinctive piano and the sweet vocal harmonies from both Clamp and Wessels. It’s a gentle, emotionally provocative album with songs that are illuminated with a deep sense of hope and resilience.
Release date: 27 October 2017
Communion is a collaboration with Matti Keltanen. It’s a project that combines the distinctive lyrics and vocal style of Clamp with the electro-ambient arrangments of Keltanen – the result, 2 tracks of exciting, original music from Helsinki.
Rebecca Clamp’s second release with Folkwit Records, Key to the City is a love letter to Clamp’s neighbourhood in Helsinki, but you don’t need to have been to Finland to appreciate these songs about love, fragility and finding home. As with her debut album Nocturnal Leap (2005), her lyrics delight in the small-great things in life: parasitic wasps, a special bookshop, and a bearded female saint all make colourful appearances here. The album features performances from Franka Oroza (FEW), JP Cavonius (Flannelmouth, Scaramangas and Treehouse), and Alex Reeves (Dizzee Rascal, EZIO) amongst others.
“English-born Rebecca Clamp has swapped the spires of Cambridge for the chillier climes of Finland, where she’s now based. Living in a wooden house, she “talks to the squirrels and falls over in the snow” (or so she says on her Myspace”.
Her 2005 debut Nocturnal Leap introduced a singular new voice. This follow-up, a love letter to her adopted home of Helsinki, moves the story on. Her eloquent piano playing is now bedded with guitar and percussion. As before the lyrics are quirky, unexpected and intriguing. A snapper-up of unconsidered trifles, she has an ear for the striking simile – ‘like daffodils dipped in liquid nitrogen’ (from Epiphany) being just one of many. She leaves the best track for last, ‘Saint Wilgefortis’, a hymn of praise to ‘the patron saint of bearded ladies’, is the zaniest thing I’ve heard in ages.
Just one criticism. ‘Normally I’m twenty people in a day’, she sings in ’100 Cold Kisses’. Her vowel-sounds oscillate as if she can’t decide whether she’s British or American. I wish she’d let the English accent win through. Comparisons with Tori Amos or Suzanne Vega may be good for business, but this lady’s selling point is truth-to-oneself.” ****
– Phillip Ward, R2/Rock’n’Reel, May 2011
“Rebecca’s world is one of grace, sensitivity, tasteful style, passion, playfulness and an enviable ability to savour the best of life. For all her thoughtfulness, Rebecca is not overtly angstful, which makes for a refreshing change. Many of the songs pay tribute to her adopted homeland of Finland, which she makes sound thoroughly appealing. She sings in an unaffected, well-enunciated manner that is a joy to listen to. The piano is the perfect instrument of accompaniment, complimenting the refined richness of the vocals and compositions. Other instruments feature judiciously and occasionally – there are no plodding bass and drums to dissipate the passion.
Each number is equally strong, until we get to the final one, in which Rebecca raises the game beyond her own high standards to produce what has already become one of my favourite songs of all time. The song is St. Wilgefortis, relating the extraordinary tale of ‘the patron saint of bearded ladies’. Rebecca achieves an exemplary combination of humour and sympathetic sensitivity. Utterly magnificent.
‘My love is better than Veuve Clicquot’ is a revealing metaphor from Isadora’s Alice Party, perhaps the strongest track on Nocturnal Leap. And yes, Rebecca Clamp’s music is like the very finest of wines.”
– Rychard Carrington, Moving Tone
“This is an album which begins with a bilingual pun, includes a tribute to the singer’s favourite bookshop, and ends with a song about an apocryphal medieval saint. What’s wonderful about it, though, is that in Rebecca Clamp’s songs, the cleverness is matched with humanity, optimism and some great tunes. Anyone who has come across the first album by this English-but-Helsinki-based artist (‘Nocturnal Leap’) will be pleased to rediscover her distinctive qualities: the sharply observational lyrics; the fluent, inventive piano playing; the voice that ranges from the quietly conversational to the rhapsodically expressive (with an almost Corin Tucker-ish quality at some moments); the analogies and allusions drawn from origami, entomology, modern theatre. What’s new here is that several other musicians have helped to make this a more richly textured, and more sociable, record: nowhere more so than on `Kallio’, a delightful evocation of apartment life in a bohemian quarter of Helsinki (the city of the album’s title). And while Rebecca Clamp’s songwriting is as utterly English as that of Ray Davies or Billy Bragg, her sojourn in Finland has given this album an indefinably Scandinavian aura, akin to Rebekka Karijord, The Tiny, Hello Saferide, Ólöf Arnalds, or the Stockholm sessions of Sarah Blasko. In short, ‘Key to the City’ is upbeat and offbeat, and thoroughly wonderful.”
– Ben Whitworth, Amazon.co.uk
“It’s been a couple of years or so since Rebecca released “Nocturnal Leap”, since then she’s moved to Finland, developed an idiosycratic performing style and combined it with some really insightful, though off the wall, writing style. Ultimately she’s brought the whole package together in a highly individual release, “Key To The City”. Rich in description and tone, the simple combination of Ms Clamp’s voice and piano are at times deeper than a school of philosphers and far easier to listen to. Other instruments are brought in, more to provide emphasis. A maelstrom of an album.”
– Neil King, FATEA
“I don’t like this sort of music normally, but …
In the female singer-songwriter stakes, Rebecca Clamp is my tip for the top. With free-flowing literacy, she paints somewhat beautiful song-pictures of an elegant romantic world of delicate intense emotion. It’s a consoling, compelling world of quiet style: an impressionist painting, a Bloomsbury short story or a French arthouse film. Yet Rebecca packs real power, through a voice someway between Patti Smith and Melanie, and through the stark solitude of an artist alone with just a rippling piano for accompaniment. There’s a particular sense of an artist crafting from nothing something refined and softly vital, not a reflection of the world but a sculptured microcosmos: an elaborate, softly contoured but emotionally real dreamworld, an audacious nocturnal leap, indeed, of tasteful decorum.
And it ain’t just me who thinks so. I’ve played the album to all of my house guests, and they all like it very much too.
Furthermore, the appeal of Nocturnal Leap is enhanced by the knowledge that this so-English young lady has emigrated to Finland. So if you like Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Bjork, those sort of singers, you’d be an idiot not to check out Rebecca Clamp. Tell you what, if you buy this album on the strength of this review and don’t like it, let me know and I’ll write you a personal note of apology.” 5/5
– Rychard Carringon, Rock ‘n’ Reel Magazine
About Rebecca Clamp:
Rebecca Clamp is a singer songwriter pianist originally from Cambridge (UK) but now living in Finland. Noted for her passionate voice and idiosyncratic piano playing, she has a style which is entirely her own. Rebecca’s quirky lyrics examine the everyday from unusual perspectives: she draws you into a world where mobile phones run away to join nunneries and bearded female saints appear at five in the morning to give you advice on your love life. Her lyrical world is rich with the minutiae of life; insects, origami boats, smiles, and cigarette smoke in a beams of light all flicker through her songs.
Her intimate and truthful performances take you through the whole range of emotions.
She’s been compared to Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Susan Vega, amongst others but her favourite was when a huge Mafioso looking Italian came up to her after a gig in Helsinki, kissed her on both cheeks and told her she was like ‘Marian Faithful without the drugs’.