Listening to the opening track of "Sirens" on Elaine Lachica's debut CD 9, I was distinctly reminded of a release that came out nearly 10 years ago. Mind you, that isn't a bad thing. "Sirens" is an ethereal, spooky track along the lines of the work that the group Miranda Sex Garden were doing in their heyday. Lachcica multitracks her high vocals over subtle, reverbed guitar and twinkling chimes, and the effect is eerie and rather lovely at the same time.
Having classically trained on not only voice, but violin and piano from an early age (along with learning bass at a later age), the 9 tracks on the aptly-titled release run a fairly nice range in terms of sound. Mainly content to drift along with a nice ambience, ocassionally the album dabbles with a touch of blues and trip-hop, and it works for the most part. After that opening track mentioned above, the album slides into "Be That Day," which lopes along with a quiet mix of bass and piano, building into louder passages before dropping off again. At it's best during the quieter moments (or maybe it's just that the louder moments remind me too much of a Tori Amos grab), the track is again a highlight for the warm vocals of Lachica.
On opposite sides of the musical spectrum are "Varuna" and "The Door." The former runs some cut-up keyboard chimes over a chunky, almost hip-hop beat and builds into one of the louder tracks on the entire disc (working a nice bluesy shuffle), while the latter again takes a more ambient approach, mixing soft layers of piano, electronic washes, and reverb-drenched vocals that just add to the overall feel of the track. While the effect works on that track, one minor complaint with the release is that the vocals are simply too often given some sort of treatment. Given the work, there's no doubt that Lachica has quite an amazing, soulful voice, and at some points (mainly during the less-atmospheric tracks) the thick reverb becomes sort of a distraction.
A talented vocalist and a multi-instrumentalist to boot, this is a release that should have a fairly wide appeal. While some tracks are mainstream enough to toe up with artists like the aforementioned Tori Amos, it's also obvious that influences go beyond top 40 material. Perhaps a nod to the Cocteau Twins, "Garlands Racing" mixes a touch of that early 4AD sound (dreamy washes of guitars and twinkling melodies alongside atmospheric vocals and thin-sounding drums. Don't be surprised if you hear bigger things from her in the future.