You’ve heard the old adage “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt”. Experience teaches us all that the old sayings often ring the most true, but there’s an exception to every rule. Kassi Valazza stands in stark contrast to this one; as proof you can know nothing, and still say something worth hearing.
Kassi Valazza Knows Nothing, the follow-up to 2019’s Dear Dead Days, is only ten tracks long but with songs that read more like poems, and instrumentals that push some songs to the near-six minute mark, you’ll be here for both a good time and, if not a long time, at least longer than you might think.
You can listen to this album in two ways. You could lay back, watch Kassi’s beloved clouds go by and simply soak in the eerie, meditative stew of her clear, whistle-bell voice and gentle, hazy instrumentation. Or you could lean forward to study and try to interpret every word of her carefully intricate lyrics, words rarely repeated or wasted, and the haunting atmosphere she creates. Either way, you’ll be enraptured.
Drawing on English folk filtered through a prism of that psychedelic cosmic sound that’s experienced such a resurgence in popularity of late, with just a pinch of country, Kassi doesn’t need to chase any such trends; they’re simply innate in her sound.
At times you think you know where a lyric’s going, the rhyme seeming obvious, but it’s that stream-of-consciousness style of writing, appearing both casual and deliberate, that keeps you guessing. “How I couldn’t fathom / This loose hanging phantom your fingers wore / So yellow in hue / It was nothing I knew”, she sings on ‘Rapture’; “rock n ‘roll pours out of the radio / Taking shape of sunken hills and UFOs” she trills on the lively and expansive ‘Watching Planes Go By’.
Accustomed to open spaces to both fete and fill, courtesy of a childhood in Arizona, there’s a longing at the heart of everything, whether it be for home, healing or the highway.
‘Corners’, with its ominous heartbeat of an opening, tells the story of a love she’d rather let go, whilst ‘Room In The City’ is a missing call for home. ‘Canyon Lines’ is a character-driven piece, whilst ‘Smile’ will bring country fans into the room with its fuzzy telecaster.
You’ll hear snatches of Joan Baez and Judy Collins in her voice, whilst her appreciation of the physical earth and its sonic eeriness bring to mind Dory Previn’s Mythical Kings and Iguanas. She’s deferential to those who came before, the album ending on a cover of folk legend Michael Hurley’s ‘Wildegeeses’, which sings of the north-west where Kassi now resides, in Portland, Oregon.
Kassi may proclaim to know nothing, but if this album is anything to go by then knowing little is an excellent way of saying a lot.