There are few instruments that make my soul hum when I hear them, one of them being the violin. Something about that bow sliding across those strings has the power to make me tear up, when played correctly. So you can imagine my excitement when I looked up Haven by Briana Di Mara and saw that she was holding a violin. I almost jumped with joy! Released on October 19th, Haven is a full album, containing 9 tracks, all composed and arranged by Briana Di Mara herself. Music has the ability to transport us places and being a history buff, I naturally gravitate towards sounds that bring me to an exotic location or a very distant past. When I’m able to truly immerse myself in a sound, I consider the album a major success. Below I discuss if Briana Di Mara was successful in moving me.
Yes, she was. No other way to put it. Briana Di Mara has crafted a “genreless” album, one that is not held back by conventions. The first track off Haven, “Home,” was clearly Celtic. The soft melody reminded me of music by the likes of Barde, a Celtic band from home town Montreal, known for their reels and jigs. I had no time to recover from the incredible track I had just heard, when the third one, “Seyyah,” begun and I was swept from the green forests and dropped right into the desert. This one had a more Middle Eastern feel to it, aided by Briana’s quick and precise playing and a slew of other musicians playing instruments like a qanun, the mandocello and an accordion, to name a few. “La Partida Tango” brought me to Spain with its flamenco-inspired sound. On this particular track, Briana Di Mara’s violin is closely followed by a flamenco guitar, giving the song more depth.
There is clearly enough variation within this album to satisfy an entire crowd. Every track presents a different story and brought forth different emotions. For example, “Reverie” was much softer than the previous tracks. It had something dark and moody about it, with the violin being more distant. This particular track had an oriental sound, yet another place this album made me visit. The recording and mastering on this album is on par with the quality of the music. Every instrument being played is beautiful and clear. Briana Di Mara clearly holds a place of honour, but no instrument is lost in the mix, giving us a full and lively sound. “Kalliope’s Lullaby,” the final track, had one more surprise for me: vocals. When I was not expecting it, Briana Di Mara surprised me once more with her soft and beautiful voice. The songs on this album are mostly instrumental and even though she does not sing for much, it was enough to give me the impression that she had a good voice.
Haven is a masterfully crafted album which is almost like a trip around the world, stuffed into one record. What is most impressive is the fact she has composed and arranged the all her songs and all the instruments. I’m impressed by sheer musical knowledge one must have to compose such an album. I highly recommend this album if you’re open to music of around the world.
Written by Johnathan Robinson
*edited by Mike Milito