Lesley Rae Dowling
Clear

Clear

Tracks:

  1. Touch
  2. Size
  3. Camp
  4. Jealous Heart
  5. Lion
  6. Beauty in brown
  7. Changes
  8. Wilds of childhood
  9. Swimmer
  10. Quiet

Musicians:

  • Lesley Rae Dowling: vocals

Release information:

1999, Gallo, GWVCD20

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Review:
Stephen Segerman, June 2000

So let's welcome back SA's own 'Stone Rose'. Lesley Rae Dowling's 'Clear' album was released late in 1999, probably in time for the SAMA Awards, and won a few, notably one for its very effective cover. Lesley looked as glacially spooked as ever when accepting them, probably not used to the bright lights and big (Sun) city after spending lots of time on the family farm in the Helderberg Mountains above Stellenbosch. She took seven years to release '93's 'Unbounded Waters', which rode on the back of local acclaim to garner a UK release on EastWest Records. EastWest waited a few months and then sent over one of their producers to work on the next album. Bad idea, bad chemistry. The project was closed and Lesley took another extended break. She travelled around Europe, cleared her head, learnt how to make wine on the farm, and kept scribbling. She also, possibly, listened a lot to the recent Fetish and Sugardrive albums. Just a guess.

In 1998 Lesley connected with the Jurgen von Wechmar who had produced many of the 'Alternatief' local legends including Koos Kombuis, Valiant Swart, Springbok NGs and The Led. It took them a while to get the songs out in Von Wechmar's home studio in Banhoek, and they used a group of local musicians who were a far cry from the A-list that worked on 'Unbounded Waters'. But the back-to-basics approach and style worked out well, and 'Clear' arrived in the "end of 1999" rush. It's a pity it did so then as this is no hurried stab at the pop charts. The cover certainly deserved its award, Dowling's turquoise eyes transfixing and engaging from their minimalist, sharp, bright background. And it actually sets the tone for the music inside. Eleven brooding compositions that avoid the standard verse/ chorus format for altered lyrical patterns, wrapped in some truly strong, sensitive and restrained rock arrangements. Dowling's growly croon is as emotionally taut as ever, but there's a new vulnerability in her voice, and a sensuality in her lyrics. 'Touch' boldly opens the album with a rock swagger, but 'Size', 'Camp' and 'Jealous Heart' settle things down with their low seductive spark. 'Clear' is an absorbing album that simmers throughout, always edgy but rarely exploding. When it does, towards the end on 'Swimmer', it feels timely. And then the delicate 'Quiet' wraps it all up. Semi-sweet, a little dry, mildly intoxicating. I wonder what her wine's like?

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