Conni St. Pierre, Mountain Spirits

Listening to Mountain Spirits, the new release from Conni St. Pierre, is like listening to several different CDs in a sitting, all of them quite good. In one moment it’s an excellent world-music-influenced disc filled with silken flute; in the next it’s a drifting ambient disc, quietly meditative; in the next it’s a New Age instrumental disc rich with emotional tone. Despite its many sides, Mountain Spirits doesn’t suffer from an identity crisis or feel like it doesn’t know where it ought to be. St. Pierre is talented enough and has spent enough time developing her own musical identity that she can pull them all off perfectly. The sad and soulful “Under the Tundra,” with its halting piano and sighing flute, is a favorite track here, a New Age work constructed almost simply–but with balance. The instruments are played with a clean, understated grace and St. Pierre shows that she knows full well the role silence plays in music. That sense of beautiful sparseness is also felt in “Orogenesis.” A stream of calm, droning pads is offset in spots with deep, breathy flute trills. Never truly a melody, though; more of a call, an expression of feeling played with a sense of insistence. “Snowfields” is a lush piece built on electric piano, the melody high and crystalline, again accented with St. Pierre’s soul-stirring flute work. This piece has an improvised feel, the piano wandering off a bit…in a good way. “Rivulet” find St. Pierre in almost purely ambient territory, a low-key wash of sounds, liquid and cool, like a stream carrying away the last of winter’s ice. This is a nicely layered piece, soothingly hypnotic yet complex and interesting.

Conni St. Pierre has been at this for a number of years, and I’m remiss in only coming to her music now. But if Mountain Spirits is to be my introduction to her work, I couldn’t have picked a better entry point. The diversity of the tracks and the quality of her playing on each has kept Mountain Spirits fresh for me through many listens. I’m impressed with how easily and convincingly she switches identities here. No strain, no lack of honesty. Just gorgeous music. A superb offering from a truly talented artist.

Available from Conni St. Pierre’s web site.

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