Few CVs are as illustrious as that of Fiona Brice. It spans orchestral arrangements for artists such as John Grant, Anna Calvi, Midlake, Placebo, Vashti Bunyan and Jarvis Cocker, scores for concert performances by Roy Harper and Gemma Ray, and violin performances for the likes of Kanye West, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Katherine Jenkins, Gorillaz and Robbie Williams. Now, there’s a new name to add to this incredible list; Brice herself, with a stunning solo debut, Postcards From, ten instrumental pieces as rich and cinematic as its ingredients are minimal; just violin, cello and piano, and a restlessly inventive imagination.
From the piercing clarity of ‘Berlin’ to the cascading ‘Glastonbury’, from the peaceful reverie of ‘Koh Yao Noi’ to the haunting tension of ‘Antwerp’, Brice’s violin and compositional skill forges many moods. Her piano also leads the luminescent ‘Dallas’ (the one track with vocals, albeit a wordless voice that resembles another instrument) and the candlelit aura of ‘Denton’ while violin and piano combine with the swarthier overtones of cello (played by Vicky Matthews) for ‘Paris’, ‘Verona’ and ‘Tokyo’. Alongside Matthews the album’s only other contributor is Brice’s long-term colleague Julian Simmons with whom she co-produced the LP.
“I was so busy sustaining a living from music, and with other people’s music, I forgot to prioritise my own work, and lost sight of its potential,” Brice explains. “Though I didn’t set out to make an album. The pieces were written over five years, but they started to hang together.”
With the exception of ‘Tokyo’ (inspired by a National Geographic article after Brice had visited the city), the tracks were conceived in the places they’re named after, during work, rest and play, and in the case of ‘Dallas’ and ‘Denton’, romance, since Brice was at the time married to Paul Alexander, who plays bass in Denton, Texas favourites Midlake. Brice lived back and forth between the town and London, finding Denton, “fascinating and beautiful”, but ultimately she missed Europe, “and ultimately too, my career is here,” she says.
Though Brice refers to the tracks as “musical selfies” of her mood at the time, she concedes that some psycho-geographical influence has seeped in. For example, she hears, “warmth, space and light” in (the Thai island of) ‘Koh Yao Noi’ while ‘St Petersburg’ “sounds a little menacing, with a certain grandeur too. But if ‘Glastonbury’ has an upbeat, swirling energy, it’s the landlines and pagan side that entrances Brice rather than the festival.
She describes Postcards From as “one foot in the classical world and one in rock, but if anything, it’s more like film music. Either way, it represents me well.” So does Bella Union, with Brice having worked with many of the label’s artists (Midlake, John Grant, Stephanie Dosen, Roy Harper). “It’s my musical home,” she vouches. And as we know, travelling is all well and good, but there’s no place like home…
Fiona Brice album "Postcards From ..."