The delicate, sensitive and smartly restrained and ethereal music of Dutch-born, Belgian-based Chantal Acda has a strong and attractive new platform on The Sparkle in Our Flaws.
Another wise collaboration with the versatile Peter Broderick, Valgeir Sigurdsson and Shahzad Ismaily, and another opportunity to blend the experimental qualities of economic arrangement with a whispering and haunting vocal, the album is less a progression than an extension of her other solo project, 2013’s Let Your Hands Be My Guide.
Acda has recorded, too, as Sleepingdog, but her step-outside-the-group albums are far more intimate, secure and compelling. There are touches of expansion — a lilting saxophone on The Other Way, for instance — but Acda plays nicely inside a great sandbox as the leader and focal point. Games is a particular highlight, perhaps the best song she’s constructed, and the title track is its most muscular, but there aren’t noticeable weak points. Arguably the album’s greatest assets are its consistency and its commitment to melody. Acda is a singer you can hear endlessly. The addition of two live tracks nicely caps the work.
No one should live under an illusion that this is bracing, bustling music. The Sparkle in Our Flaws is hypnotic and effective, understated and poignant, slow to reveal its hand. A more striking album this year (and it should be heard as an album, not as tunes) will be hard to recommend.