Music as an art form has been slowly diminishing in favour of the search for the next global hit, especially one that equates into massive download numbers. Songs aimed at the teenage market have always dominated the music scene, it’s the bread and butter for the marketing men and producers and goes a long way to finance the acts that exist under the radar. Acts that appeal to the older audience seeking musical artistry and expression rather than catchy choruses and tightly choreographed dance numbers but scratch a little deeper still and there is an ocean of interesting acts and musical minds that happily blur the boundaries and challenge the norm.
Bath-based singer/songwriter/musician/composer/producer Bethany Stenning is one of these artists, performing under the moniker Stanlaey, she has assembled a small army to bring The Human Project to life. To call it an album would be to pay it a disservice because it’s so much more, involving both visual and audio facets, the musical aspect of which acts almost as a side project to the visuals.
With seven tracks (representing seven elements of space, wood, fire, earth, metal, ice and water) you’re given something that will probably require a few listens, it’s not immediately ‘catchy’ but is never anything less than interesting with enough musical shaping to keep the ear engaged. There are jazz-styled drums and sax, distant folk guitar and a haunting vocal that can sound like the confused utterings of a Shakespearean witch or a fairy-like character from a fairy tale of the Brothers Grimm (take, for example, the soundscape of ‘Ode to Ovid’, there are sounds resembling water dripping from caves into pools, again, that fairy tale imagery) it’s science fiction, gothic and mischievous but also fits in with the piece.
It’s a tricky album to review because it doesn’t fall into any strict genre, some will reach for the stop button within minutes while others will listen, take it in and try to unravel the mysteries that are often just out of reach. Once you think you’ve got the atmosphere of the album, it turns on it’s head and scampers off.
By anybody’s standard, this is a huge achievement, but for someone as young as Stanlaey – she’s in her early twenties – it’s massive and hopefully a sign of what to expect in the future.