Fountain of Sorrow, Fountain of Light: Enchanting New Zealand Songstress Offers A Beguiling Debut

Reb Fountain | Reb Fountain | (Flying Nun)
3 1/2 out of five stars

Those looking for an easy way to typecast Reb Fountain may find themselves disappointed. Born in San Francisco and currently a resident of New Zealand, she possesses a crystalline vocal that’s as stunning as it is assured. Set atop the album’s gilded arrangements, she alternately croons and caresses, easily navigating her way from the soulful circumstance of “The Last Word” to the touching tones of the aptly named “Quiet Like the Rain.”  It’s little wonder that her recent single (and the centerpiece of this set), the softly shimmering “Don’t You Know Who I Am,” was shortlisted for her country’s highest songwriting honor, the APRA Silver Scroll.

Fountain’s ability to find a fit in the folk-centric area where she was raised — the port city of Lyttelt near the city of Christchurch — is further affirmed by her fast friendship with Neil Finn, best known for his work with Crowded House and, more recently, as a stringer for the reconstructed Fleetwood Mac. After sharing a stage on one of his recent tours prior to the pandemic, she was invited to record her record at Finn’s Roundhead Studios. Not that her new album sounds anything remotely like Finn or his giddy pop-perfect jaunts; on the contrary, Fountain’s sultry, seductive musings are more likely to entice than excite, particularly when she shares her well-measured vocals on the contemplative piano-driven ballad “Lighthouse” or over the pulsating pacing of “Hawks & Doves,” one of the more beguiling songs in the set. The atmospheric arrangements are all carefully considered, a definitive element that adds to the overall allure. Likewise, when she offers her spoken word narrative to the similarly sobering “Samson,” or overdubs her soaring, searing vocals on the aptly named “It’s a Bird (It’s a Plane),” it elevates the intrigue that much more.

Ultimately, the best way to describe Fountain’s work would be to call it a mix of music and mystique, not all that dissimilar from Tori Amos, Sade or early era Kate Bush. It’s a sound befitting the far reaches of the seaside community she calls home, a place practically on the edge of the horizon that’s flush with both isolation and imagery.

Fountain may be unknown now, but it’s clear her talent is about to overflow on these shores as well.

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