Shannon Wright's debut album, Flightsafety, positioned her as a sensitive, talented purveyor of melancholy, Elliott Smith-styled indie folk. The quiet intensity underpinning Flightsafety bubbles to the surface on its follow-up, Maps of Tacit, a bold and startling leap into uncharted territory. Although the album begins in a relatively similar style, by the halfway point it's apparent that Wright is drawing just as much on the dissonant art-song of theatrical composer Kurt Weill and the minimalist instrumentation of latter-day Tom Waits (sans junkyard percussion); the more carnival-esque work of Lisa Germano is perhaps the best comparison, and the wilder moments might even recall German art rock chanteuse Dagmar Krause for some. The differences are apparent on the re-recording of Flightsafety's "Heavy Crown," now overtly rather than vaguely unsettling; where the original relied on its creeping chordal lines for impact, here Wright wails the chorus with a newfound power, climaxing in an apocalyptic scream that provides one of the record's most intense moments. Yet that shouldn't be taken to mean that Wright has thrown off all restraint or nuance; quite the contrary, she simply sounds more confident, her live performances having informed the sharper emotional contrasts in her music. The intensity of Maps of Tacit feels cathartic rather than tortured, and it makes Wright's experiments with sonic texture all the more exciting and fresh. That's especially true of the pieces utilizing harmonium or Wurlitzer organ; their frequently aggressive dissonance hangs in the air behind Wright with an eerie, almost spectral quality. If the album has a flaw, it's that the second half's shorter, sometimes instrumental pieces could perhaps have been fleshed out into something more complete-sounding; still, they at least fit the atmosphere well. Overall, Maps of Tacit finds Wright growing more adventurous both as a composer and performer; it's a dark and challenging work, yet it isn't off-putting or overly harrowing, and its bracing experimentalism and originality suggest even greater things to come. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi

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