Andrea Tomasi, ‘In the mystery’ | Album review | Seven days
Put on your headphones and enter the ether. With whispers, songs and echoing harmonies, Andrea Tomasithe new album of, In the mystery, immerses listeners in full awareness. The experience – sometimes like walking in the woods or watching the ocean waves – is meditative, gentle, and reminds that a powerful voice is an interesting instrument.
On her website, Tomasi, from Vermont and Montpellier, describes herself as “a lover of the incarnation, a cultivator of presence … an explorer of frequencies and resonances”. She qualifies the song as an “expression of a deep incarnation” which puts her in the “‘now’ of every moment”. Presence in the moment is a recurring theme throughout In the mystery, which is inspired by folk, new-age, ambient and traditional Celtic music.
Tomasi wrote his first album in 2013 Hurricane dream in New York and did it at Team Love Records in New Paltz, NY In the mystery was a year-long project that she wrote and recorded in a cramped bedroom in Portland, Oregon. She aimed to provide “a source of healing for the world,” according to her Bandcamp page, and was inspired by poets such as Wendell Berry and Rumi.
Although she wrote In the mystery while on America’s West Coast, Green Mountain’s influence is strong: Tomasi credits fellow folk musicians Abigail Nessen Bengson and Moira Smiley as mentors.
Mindfulness teachers will tell you that conscious breathing centers the souls and calms the nerves. Tomasi, a trained yoga instructor, often audibly inhales to prepare to sing a note and audibly exhales as she sings it. She seems to invite the listener to breathe with her.
In “The Peace of Wild Things”, Tomasi sings the lyrics to Berry’s poem of the same name; her delivery amplifies her feeling that healing peace can come from nature. As she sings the Unstable Awakening in the Night at the start of the song, her tone rises, relaying the anxiety. As she sings the last line on Rest in Grace, her voice has shrunk to silence, as if she has sighed in relief.
The sound of birds chirping permeates “Visible Breath,” whose lyrics are taken from the myth of the Oglala Sioux nation of the White Bison Spirit Woman, according to Tomasi’s Bandcamp page. “With a visible breath I walk / A voice I send out as I walk / In a sacred way I walk,” she sings. The guitar notes chosen by Simon Jermyn join the avian chorus as Tomasi, between the verses of the poem, raises and lowers his vocal register, chanting “whoas” and “ohs” like a mantra.
Although some critics heard echoes of Joni Mitchell and Buffy Sainte-Marie in Tomasi’s voice, her sweet vocal clarity evoked thoughts of Feist. The reminder, and her diction vaguely Delores O’Riordan, of the Cranberries.
Any track on In the mystery sounds Celtic enough to play on NPR’s “The Thistle & Shamrock” or WGBH Boston’s “A Celtic Sojourn”. Program directors, are you listening?
In the mystery is available on andreatomasi.bandcamp.com.