Essential New Music: Julia Reidy’s “Vanish”

Cristina Marx/Photomusix

If you spot a photo of Julia Reidy hefting her acoustic 12-string guitar, you might think she’s a folk singer. Catch a glimpse of her CV (which includes work with George Lewis, Axel Dörner and Tony Buck), and you might peg her for an improviser. But if you put on Vanish, the first thing that will go is your preconceptions. 

There’s no way to pigeonhole the Berlin-based Australian’s music, because while she draws on ideas you might recognize, the ways she puts them together results in something new. Her acoustic-guitar playing spins webs of brittle, woody sound, but it also stacks up sounds as plugged-in and orchestral as Brian May’s best licks. Reidy’s singing is so thickly coated in autotune that it feels like a synthesizer, but when she actually plays a synth, it more closely resembles panpipes.

Electronic beats punctuate the music, but they never limit it to a particular pattern or tempo. And because each of Vanish’s two pieces stretches the full side of an album, there’s plenty of room for Reidy to evoke an image, dispel it with a contrasting passage, then call it back like a ghost with a debt to pay. Given what a shitshow 2020 has been, it would be cruel to say that any piece of music sounds like now. Instead, let’s say that Vanish sounds like what’s next. 

—Bill Meyer