"You said we would reap a brilliant harvest from this grief."
Collectively, the songs on Clara Engel's The Bethlehem Tapes evoke a starkly beautiful soundscape that invites the listener to gaze wide-eyed into the darkness at the heart of everything. This bravely honest brush with the abyss is punctuated, however, with dazzling moments of minimalist beauty. Such is life if we want to be honest about it. Engel's musical palette is comprised primarily of sparely arranged acoustic instruments, but her lovely, full-bodied voice, reminiscent of Marissa Nadler's, is anything but minimalist and functions as a lush counterpoint to the desolate soundscapes it inhabits. This is accomplished to greatest effect on "Accompanied by Dreams," a stunningly gorgeous song that somehow suggests both dirge and lullaby while conforming to the logic of neither. Engel's work is both passionate and uncompromising; as such, it is highly recommended.