Boarding Alessi’s Ark for the first time is like observing a delicate flower in a fine spring drizzle. Tiny drops bounce like pizzicato plucking on petals and leaves glisten as shafts of sunlight start to shoot through thinning rainclouds.
On her second record, Alessi Laurent-Marke’s honey-soaked alto slyly swoops and smiles across each song like a bird, at times a chirpy cardinal and at other junctures a mourning dove. She possesses an orchestral sensibility along with a seemingly divine gift for melody, both of which belie her tender age.
Despite her relative youth (she was signed by EMI/Virgin on the eve of her 17th birthday, but her second proper full-length was released by the independent label Bella Union), Laurent-Marke’s seemingly effortless vocals also have a smoky backroom world weariness to them, especially on the eerie film noir feeling “Blanket.” Her youth can still be heard in her delicate voice, but it also comes with an undeniable maturity.
Time Travel screams sweetness right down to the cover art, a faded and yellowed snapshot of an ice cream truck by the seaside.
The central precept of the title track seems to be a wistfulness for the past, and this is a recurrent theme throughout, expressed most poignantly towards the end of the record with “The Run.”
From the beginning, with the short but bittersweet “Kind Of Man,” Laurent-Marke sounds like a Petula Clarke remade for those inspired by the trails carved by John Denver and his indie rock successor, Mary Lou Lord. Although this and a few other tracks start with an acapella moment, the songs never sound too similar, and it’s a wonderful and engaging device.
“The Fever” is a beautiful instrumental, but it would be hard to pass over the tracks with her gorgeous vocals on the other songs, especially the cover of Lesley Gore’s 1964 Top 20 single , “Maybe I Know,” which strikes just the right balance of Spector and introspection (although the original was produced by a young man named Quincy Jones). Throughout Time Travel, the orchestration and horn accents are never overpowering, and the acoustic guitar is always at the root. Laurent-Marke’s charming British accent can be heard most apparently on “The Robot,” which features a nice guitar solo at the end before it fades out.
While one could quibble that the songs aren’t given enough time to fully develop and grow, they each shine on their own like perfectly cut gems, and it’s refreshing how the melodies and hooks aren’t beaten to death– these are songs that never wear out their welcome, even after repeated listens.
Laurent-Marke’s talent crosses into other mediums. Yielding a pen, she not only writes music, she draws as well. Her work is consistent throughout, sharing the same sparse but beautiful aesthetic. Her line drawings, sometimes accompanied by notes, allow one to welcome her further into their world by embracing her’s.