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"Leave It Behind" Review by mdwh (23-12-2012)

“Leave it Behind” is not something you will want to do with this album. The tracks are both startling and demure in their captivating impact. There’s a very human drama being played out in the music; I sense the limits of emotion, the challenge of being honest, the allure of illusion, and the power of self-realisation. The lyrics, the musical backing, and Lee-Leet’s expressive voice are deftly entwined to create intense and unusual musical flavours.

The album opens with ‘So High’, mournful yet optimistic, with Lee-Leet’s voice soaring above the accompaniment – steady drums and persistent piano – and then diving below it – characterising perfectly the sense of ‘so fragile, so free’. Then ‘Gentle’ with its soft, assuring opening – ‘you can’t change...’ but then the unexpectedly stern pronouncement from the drums, reminding us that it takes forceful decisiveness to ‘burn your bridges’. The almost mantra-like ‘don’t go on and on and on…’ pulls us back into that easy softness ‘look at the world, you can still see it bloom’. But once more, the stern reminder ‘there’s time to repair what’s left of you’. And then the all-compelling why – ‘because gentle is you’. From then the piece becomes like a dance, I imagine the two people together, not letting go. The title track ‘Leave it behind’ comes third in the album, strategically positioned now that there is a taste of what can be. There’s huge suspense, darkness, entrapment, against which is positioned the repeated urging to ‘leave it behind’. I am caught up in this leap of faith.

And what is “it”? ‘Heaven & Earth’ tells me very explicitly – alternating between confidential whispering and the confident assertion. Lee-Leet sings of a cold relationship, a false sense of pace, and an illusion to the hell in ‘Leave it behind’. The turn to jazz captures her change of mood, and it is these soft rhythms which end the song rather than Lee-Leet’s voice. But just as I was feeling comfortable, ‘Femme fatale’ shifted me. The words are Polish, but there’s no mistaking the powerful, mysterious presence, the sensation of a swirling kaleidoscope, a person impossible to fathom, impossible to ignore. This is a brilliant piece of musical drama. But it isn’t over yet.

‘Stage fright’ is cleverly crafted, depicting a relationship like a performance which cannot be avoided, the music and lyrics conveying an unyielding relentlessness, inevitability. And then, a change back to jazz, and Polish, with ‘Odleæmy st¹d’. I first heard this on Lee-Leet’s second album ‘Bare’ a delightful balancing of her voice and piano. I enjoyed this song immensely there: now with a stronger musical backing, ‘Odleæmy st¹d’ conveys a greater sense of gentleness, confidence and happiness: it leads naturally into the self-realisation of ‘I’m not in love’. Lee-Leet delicately balances the illusion of a real relationship with the knowledge that it isn’t. And so to ‘I call it a day’. Here I sense the deliberate pause, the objective standing back. The music swerves between intense phrases to staccato, and I share the relief of the whispered ‘I can call it a day’. The music continues on to reinforce my confidence in that affirmation.

The album has two bonus tracks. First is ‘State of emergency’, the title track of Lee-Leet’s first album. There it is a sombre, slower piece. Here it has become lighter: the disappointment remains but the sense of disillusionment is caught and contained. Perhaps deliberately, the disc in that first album is black; ‘Leave it behind’ is white. And finally ‘Let’s fly away’. The music is familiar, and that’s because it is ‘Odleæmy st¹d’ with English lyrics. It is a nice touch that Lee-Leet’s audience, whether those in her country or outside, having been caught up in the strong tension and hard choices, can join in the joyous sense of escape and freedom.

mdwh, SellaBand Believer