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A new Stephanie Rearick album is a bit like a trip to the art museum. Like a captivating painting, the longer you look, the more detail you’re likely to notice. Rearick’s music has always bent toward the abstract. She excels at creating dreamscapes out of sparse instrumentation, vocal loops and uncommon sounds, which, in this case, are entirely produced by her. Every Thing Everything is a true solo outing and one of Rearick’s most satisfying.
The familiar electronic keyboard sounds associated with Rearick are present in the opener, “Whenever You’re Alone.” “Wake up sleepy dreamer…/ You’ve got a lot at stake / whenever you’re awake” – Rearick frequently implores us to wake up from our false real-world disillusionments and become truly alive. “The Book” likewise exemplifies her whimsical side, lamenting the death of books.
Rearick creates a sinfonietta on “Paper Dolls,” her trumpet making an appearance, not just as an adornment but carrying a melodic theme accompanied by her classically-influenced and dazzling piano.
Two songs by Maestro Subgum and the Whole from Chicago are featured (Uvulittle recently remastered and re-released all their albums). “Lullaby from a Weird Place” is suitably strange and haunting, again showcasing Rearick’s piano skills. “The Strange” is similarly spooky with Rearick achieving an incredible soundscape of looped trumpet, keyboards and gorgeous piano. It’s also one of her finest vocal performances. The trumpet solo at the end of the song is a stark and effective statement making this one her most complete recorded tracks.
A third cover, recorded at a rehearsal for a concert in 2002 and entitled ”Blues,” is an interpretation taken from Ben Johnston’s “Suite for Microtonal Piano.” A piano performance unlike any other she has recorded, it’s baffling how some of these sounds were produced and gives insight into Rearick’s influences and her use of dissonance to elicit mood.
“Make Believe” and “Stolen Presents” further highlight the piano, the latter being a captivating solo performance incorporating unusual chord structures and just enough dissonance to keep things in the realm of the avant-garde.
“Giving Presents” showcases Rearick’s penchant for vocal loops and here she succeeds in applying the construct to a charmingly melodic composition. “Everyone Singing” mines similar territory, an a cappella affair save the truly inventive wine glass performance which is similarly looped and harmonized.
A Rearick album (this one again recorded and produced by Ed Reardon) is always a bare-bones affair with a warts-and-all approach, like a noisy piano pedal and the highly audible hard edit in “Down Down Down,” a reprise of the song from the recent Glitterbox album by Ladyscissors. These accoutrements become part of the fabric, part of the art and expression.
Noticeably, Every Thing Everything was mixed in Vienna where Reardon recently moved although tracking was done here on his frequent returns to sort out visa issues. Rearick played a release show in Vienna as an impetus for a new music project in a Vienna art gallery which Reardon will host.
Although there are no real stylistic departures from her previous outings, Every Thing Everything feels like a big step forward for Rearick. She occupies her own space in the pantheon of Madison music, a confluence of music and art that is vastly underappreciated and largely unrecognized. That seems like a shame, perhaps, but such is the fate of true trailblazers, fiercely independent and cherished by those who take the time to wake from their sleepy dream.