On his upcoming June 8th release ‘Shouts and Whispers’, singer-songwriter Ari Hest creates a non-typical collection of tracks that ultimately form a cohesive narrative. With songs of sadness and resignation giving way to lucidity and catharsis, Hest’s introspection and intelligence are on display, creating moments of magic within his poetic, spare lyrics and backing them up with his ear for haunting melodies.
Hest conceived half the album as an acoustic set, while the other half took shape via keyboards, as he explains below. ‘Shouts and Whispers’ begins with the swirling, hypnotic ‘Harvest’, soon followed by a centerpiece track, the stunning, understated ‘Into the Empty White’. ‘How We’ll Always Be’ is perhaps a declaration of giving up the fight, and the melancholy ‘No One Can Stay’ has an elegant darkness. There’s a glimmer of hope within ‘Bona Fide’, and finally a cathartic yowl as ‘After The Thunder’ builds to its crescendo.
Hest comments on the process of making the album:
“At first I wanted to write and record some songs where I put the guitar down and focused on keyboards…I’ve always been into music from Tears For Fears, Peter Gabriel, and Bruce Hornsby, and was excited to experiment in that direction. So I asked my buddy Carl Barc if I could invade his studio for a while to experiment with some ideas on his Juno and CP70 keyboards. I loved creating in a way I hadn’t – using those instruments as the backbone of tracks and leaving guitar largely out of it.”
“In the middle of working on those songs I began playing solo shows supporting Judy Collins around the U.S. and Europe. Her show and her audience beg for a more acoustically minded set, so I’d go on stage with just a guitar and occasionally play songs that were fresh out of the oven. I enjoyed being able to take a break mentally from what I was doing with Carl. I was able to focus on how I could arrange these other new songs sparsely.”
Eventually Hest found the time to record a few of them with the help of producer Matt Pendergast at Q Division Studios in Boston, MA. Then he listened to both projects. “After hearing the two finished batches of songs I saw two distinct themes, not only in a musical sense but also lyrically. The vibe of the keyboard driven tracks is intense. I wrote a lot about the uncertainty of what I do for a living. On the contrary, the acoustic songs come from a place of lucidity. I started thinking it’d be cool to combine the two somehow.”
The result is an album that isn’t an album in the traditional sense, but it manages to flow like a complete thought.
“I’ve always been the introspective type. I guess as a singer-songwriter you’re gonna have some of that anyway in your makeup. My previous records were inward most of the time, but ‘Shouts and Whispers’ has another distinct angle, one of understanding the world I live in and embracing how I fit into it a bit easier than I used to.”
Hest has released seven albums, three EPs, and “52” in 2008, an innovative project whereby he wrote, recorded and released a new song every Monday for a full year. In addition, Hest is half of the folk pop duo The Open Sea, along with longtime friend Rosi Golan.
His music has been featured on numerous television shows including Private Practice, Army Wives, and One Tree Hill. Recently, Ari’s song “The Landlord” appeared in an episode of NPR’s “All Things Considered”. He’s also scored a film called ‘Dreamriders,’ which won several independent film awards. And throughout his career, he has toured worldwide to support his records, most recently in Germany as well as several European countries, and built the kind of loyal fan base any musician would envy.
While Shouts and Whispers is an excellent indication of what Hest is capable of, his live show may leave even more of an impression. Watching him play, one can’t help but be thrust into his world, hanging on every word like a child listening to a ghost story.