Rachael Sage - 'Choreographic' (Acoustic)

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

Last month here on the Independent Spotlight, I issued a glowing review of Rachael Sage and her latest studio album, ‘Choreographic.’ The album is one of the finest excursions through compelling, sonically varied music that the indie scene has seen thus far this year. There is, however, also an acoustic version of the record. Thus, I’d like to explore and revisit this album in its different iteration. Is the acoustic rendition worth adding to your collection? Let’s find out.

In previous review, I referred to Sage as a new generation’s Laurie Anderson. She’s a bit quirky and different, her lyricism is razor sharp, and her production is absolutely superb. All of that is still abundant when digging into ‘Choreographic’ as an acoustic endeavor. The spirit of Sage’s work is still alive and well within the minimalist soundscape. A slightly different instrumental interpretation provides some unique contrast to its predecessor.

The session musicians, like before, are on mark throughout. There isn’t a note misplaced or a poorly executed aural idea. In particular, softer tracks are accentuated powerfully by the new organization. ‘7 Angels,’ for example, is quite a beautiful listen in acoustic form. The soft cellos and acoustic guitars that flutter in and out of each landscape are perfectly orchestrated and performed. Even more upbeat tracks like ‘Heaven (Is A Grocery Store Clerk)’ are approached in an intriguing way in this new collection.

There is an inherent problem, however, that prevents this new collection from being much more than an interesting companion piece. I spent a good while listening back and forth between the studio cuts and the acoustic cuts - they’re the same vocal mixes. The instrumentation has just been stripped down and partially re-recorded. As a result of this, the album feels like a remix more than anything. If Sage had performed each of these songs with an acoustic ensemble on fresh new recordings, this release would be absolutely brilliant.

Songs like ‘Learn To Let You Go’ feel a bit handicapped by the new instrumentation as well. Part of the personality of some of these tunes was the wonderful instrumentation. Without it, and without any new emotion or delivery from Sage, they fall flat in comparison to their fuller counterparts. As aforementioned, it does work well with some of the tracks, but it does make others feel rather empty.

The official release of ‘Choreographic’ is the definitive listen. It’s much better in almost every capacity. With that said, this release isn’t a whole lot different because it’s the same vocal tracks. Again, it’s more of a remix. In that capacity, it’s a lovely remix and one very much worth owning and listening to as a companion piece. Listeners may very well find some of these acoustic renditions appeal to them more. With that said, I’d love to see Sage one day record these songs acoustically with an acoustic band. That’s what a good acoustic record is, and that would make a second release of ‘Choreographic’ less of a companion piece and more of an independent entity.

On a final note, I should mention that the sequencing is different in this collection. I actually think that it’s quite good - it seems to accent the acoustic atmosphere very nicely and does create a bit of a different overall listening experience.

'Choreographic’ is still superb. Check it out if you haven’t!