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CHROMA, 1999

Reviews of Chroma

"MacDonald’s haunting vocal tapestries have the same passionate intensity as Qawwali music. She plums the spiritual depths with her mystical voice, blending it with modern swashes of electronica, guitar and keyboard. She turns a kaleidoscope that revolves around the listener in sultry polyrhythms and ghostly vocal gymnastics."
- Chapters

“She’s all pulse-driven innovation. Her sound is an eclectic mix of styles, timbres, instrumentation. Imagine Joan Armatrading singing under a disco ball in a candlelit cathedral.”
- Jennifer Leonard, Toronto Life Fashion

“Albums such as this wave a ‘come hither’ finger from the first song and by the time you've reached the ninth you realize you actually passed through it like a ghost...Laurel MacDonald sounds like the kind of woman who, in ancient Salem, might have been a candidate for witch burning except for her ability to calm and beguile her accusers.”
- Frank Peebles, The Prince George Free Press

“I can hardly get enough of Chroma not only for the beautiful textures, intriguing arrangements, and MacDonald’s superb and intelligently used voice, but also because I keep hoping to decode what’s going on.”
- Bob Tarte, The Beat

"MacDonald does remind one of others. All artists worth anything built their art on the works or the styles of their forbears. She is no different. Buffy Sainte-Marie, Laurie Anderson, Joni Mitchell, Enya, Márta Sebestyén, traditional Bulgarian folk singers and others live in her voice. Yet her instrument is unique; rich, multi-layered, full of haunting pathos on the one hand and playful insinuation on the other. Her influences are not just evident in her vocal style. She seems to be fully aware of the great composers of the 20th century; Schoenberg, Varese, Pärt, Boulez, Stockhausen and their proteges are evident. Medieval influences increase the complex mix of ingredients in her style and material. The Abbess Hildegard of Bingen seems to have a hand on Laurel's shoulder as she composes. Indeed, MacDonald is not a song writer, she is a composer.

A kind of rugged gentleness pervades the meditative tracks on this disc. There is almost the sense that she is waiting for you to understand her meaning, even as she sings. And that iridescent, poly-chromatic voice, once in you, never leaves your mind. Her voice seems to hold vast reserves of power. She moves comfortably from gentle whisper to full throated wail as needed, yet the result is never overdone and in your face. She does not strain after effect but organizes the content of each track with meticulous attention to detail and regard for artistic balance. There is a talented and complex perfectionist at work here. I hear a depth in this music far beyond that of the saccharine 'Celticas' in vogue today. This is not pseudo-spiritual piffle calculated to hit and profit from a boomer niche market. MacDonald's work is of permanent value. I believe it will outlast anything that could be conceived of as being its 'competition' today.

Here, then, is a richly rewarding disc; one that increases in meaning on each hearing. I sense MacDonald has only just begun to discover her own possibilities. The music and the voice are glorious. The lyrics to her songs, when written by her, are indeed lyrical poetry, wonderfully suggestive, the work of a gifted poet. The artist herself, judging from published interviews, is gentle, shy, self-effacing and possessed of a complex and massive intelligence. She will be, if she is not this already, a great Canadian artist. Chroma is a must have for anyone interested in the glories of the human voice, a unique view of the Celtic/East Coast phenomenon, or in music to ease the troubled heart sinking in the chaotic stress pool that is North American life in the year 2000."

- D. Ramcharan, Amazon Customer Review