Marcela Bovio – Unprecedented: The Piano Sessions

Back in January, just a few months after the Ex-Stream of Passion vocalist Marcela Bovio released her debut solo album Unprecedented she released a re-recorded version of the album with pianist Erik van Ittersum, trading the string quartet for just her voice and piano. With little time between each release the songs were still fresh in the memory, and the re-recording is a welcome one, a really different take on the songs showing just how good they were in the first place.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the original album, it had Marcela trading the metal band of Stream of Passion for a string quartet, but given the symphonic quality always present in her voice she seemed just as home among the classical instrumentation, which had something of a moody and folky sound to it at moments. It was a backdrop that let her voice stand and shine in the forefront but was by no means a soulless backing track, the instrumentation matched the mood of her voice and there were a lot of melodic instrumental breaks that fit really well and gave the songs a really well rounded feel.

Re-arranged for the softer instrument of the piano shows a lot of the songs taking a calmer approach, with the suspenseful strings of The Treasure Hunter and The Cartographers traded for soft calm and moody melodies. They still retain the same energy despite the softer sound of the piano in comparison to the strings, reducing the sound of four string instruments to one means the piano is played with a fast and breezy energetic sound and particularly on the latter piece the way the chords interweave with her powerful vocals is beautiful. The complexity of the piano throughout the album and the way the songs have been redone could make you think they were always intended to be performed this way. Powerless was the highlight of the original album, with the most endearing chorus, and stirring strings, and out of the ten re-recorded here it’s the highlight once again, the piano giving a bright and twinkling sound below her softer vocals at the start, before rising to a more insistent and louder crescendo with her more powerful vocals in the chorus and back again to the softer sound with the verse.

The more dramatic sound of Hey Amores is recreated well with some dark and foreboding piano in place of the somewhat droney strings at the start of the original, while the more upbeat Found! swaps a folky sound to a more jazzy piano approach in another great re-recording. There are also four bonus tracks that weren’t present on the original album that make this an even more worthwhile listen. Hope is Never Lost has some of the same Lisa Gerrard-esque powerful and wordless vocalizations from Hay Amores that I wished for more of on the original, and here they’re rather esoteric over the dark and moody piano sound, before she changes her style back to some beautifully soft vocals toward the end of the track. Pure Imagination is a cover from the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which again sounds great stripped down to some dramatic classical piano. Her vocals though are staggering, the powerful vocals at the start having a lovely timbre and passionate trill to them, but the soft way she sings the slower part”if you want to view paradise…” is simply gorgeous, the powerful piano break after this being excellent too, building the dramatic energy that lapsed during the vocal-centric part. It’s certainly the best of the four bonus tracks here and a great reason to get the album a second time.

Whether it’s a with a bombastic symphonic metal band, a string quartet or simply a solo piano Marcela Bovio has shown her voice sounds brilliant with whatever backing instrumentation she cares to try. After leaving the metal group Vuur before the release of their first song and album it will certainly be interesting to see what she does next, and I’m sure she’ll be great at whatever style she chooses to lend her vocal talents to.

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