RMI Records is excited announce the release of a prayer for broken glass, multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter Mel Hsu’s fourth album under her own name and second in partnership with Resonant Motion. This also marks her first full-length recording as an unaccompanied artist, exploring a vast sonic terrain with only her own voice and instruments.
First coming to attention for her work as a cellist and vocalist, Hsu’s pursuits have become increasingly unclassifiable. Stylistically her work goes well beyond her classical roots, as evidenced by recent performances with Eminem (at the 2018 Firefly Music Festival) and Mac Miller (who she accompanied on his NPR Tiny Desk Concert). Her work as a composer and conceptualist has also enabled her to participate in many cross-disciplinary collaborations. Her collaborations with dance, theater, and visual art have earned her a Barrymore Award for theatrical excellence in the Philadelphia area and led her to the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where she spent a month at the helm of the music she composed for the show xoxo moongirl. She also serves as the Community Organizing Director at Girls Rock Philly, where she works to amplify the voices of girls, trans and gender-expansive youth through the radical process of unapologetic sound-making.
This remarkable album is the follow-up to her RMI Records debut I was a phoenix. The impetus came from a challenge put forth by Josh the Word, a Brooklyn-based rapper and a longtime friend and collaborator of Hsu’s, towards the end of that recording process. The challenge was for Hsu, who has a long track record of initiating deep, rich collaborations, to create an entire album on which she played all the instruments and sang all the vocals. She accepted the challenge, and the bulk of the recording came out of a two week retreat with Jared Paul, the engineer who has been at the helm of all of Hsu’s albums to date. According to Hsu, “every sonic crevice of this album honors the growth that Jared and I have experienced over 10 years of collaboration. We have always pushed each other to dream and hear and play and create and experiment beyond what we both think to be possible, and I’m so proud of how masterful Jared has become in his craft and so tickled by how telepathic we have become in our process together in the studio.”
Those two weeks in a sonic womb of wild experimentation and unknowns led to this epic journey of impossible worlds. The songs hereevoke the multifaceted studio layering of a broad range of artists, from Stevie Wonder’s painting of unprecedented aural universes to Joni Mitchell’s indescribably rich vocal layers to Jacob Collier’s insatiable appetite for variation and exploration. And yet the sounds here are all their own, guided by Hsu’s boundless imagination rather than any attempt to imitate or show off. Those who have followed her work will find both comfort in the unmistakable distinction of her musical vision and excitement in the new ground she breaks. Some of the pieces are hard-driving and funky, some are tender and ethereal, and none are quite like anything you have heard before, unless perhaps you are already a Mel Hsu fan. In the end the visceral directness and intimacy of her music cuts deeply, not because of the absence of other musicians, but because of the abandon with which she dives into this music and the discovery process behind it. Longtime fans and new converts can all enjoy this tour de force while eagerly awaiting where this flow of creativity will bring her next.