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Veda Hille


Country of origin:

Canada

Type of music generally:

She's a goddess. Her style is beautiful and fierce and incredibly eclectic: alternative rock with touches of jazz and folk rock, and with occasional experimental pieces. (Neile)

Status:

Most recent release, Young Saint Marie (covers, 2011); most recent release of own material, This Riot Life (2008)

See also:

Veda Hille's website

The list of Frequently Asked Questions and the News Page of Trajectory, the Veda Hille mailing list.

Comparisons:

Totally individual, but with touches of Joni Mitchell, Jane Siberry, Tori Amos, Robin Holcomb. There are also Christine Fellows, a new artist. (Neile)

Covers/own material:

Own, occasionally co-writes material, occasional covers in live performances

General comments:

Exceedingly wonderful. (art@cs.sfu.ca)

She's great! She plays around here a lot but I had always assumed I wouldn't like her because I thought she was more jazzy than she turned out to be and I'm not a big jazz fan. She was much more varied though—excellent lyrics, great playing, both piano and guitar. (abehrend@direct.ca)

She's wonderful, and like most of the ecto pantheon, rather hard to describe. Quirky. Lively. Great lyrics. Distinctive voice. A little folky, rocky, jazzy, with rich and evocative songwriting. One of the most amazing songwriters and performers around. I can't recommend her music highly enough. Also wonderful live. Veda's work continues to resonate for me over time—each of her recordings give me more each time I listen to them, as though they're going through a continual opening, or I am each time I listen to them, I don't know. All I know is that I never tire of her music, and Veda is now by far my favourite musical artist.
     I was lucky enough to start listening to Veda with songs about people on buildings immediately followed by path of a body. I liked her a lot immediately. When I started seeing her live and spine was released I really began to notice her technical range and emotional power, and the very crack-my-head-open nature of songs like "26 years" made her one of my personal musical goddesses. spine grew to be one of my very favourite albums of 1994 and one of my favourite albums ever. It's Veda's combination of willingness to take musical and emotional risks with killer hooks that get me every time.
     Those who are into the more folk side will like songs about people and buildings. path of a body is easier to take than spine. spine is edgy and brilliant. Here is a picture is the most amazing portrait of someone's artistic life that I can imagine. Different people will like different albums, but might consider starting from the beginning, at least on first listen if that's at all possible.
     With the release of each of Veda's albums since the first two (songs about people and buildings and path of a body) which I got at the same time, the more I've heard the albums the more important to me and rich they have become. There's at a slow start, then a huge upsurge but it never seems to level off: each time I listen to spine and here is a picture and now you do not live in this world alone I hear more and am affected by more. I always immediately like them, but get more and more enthusiastic about them the more I hear them until I suddenly adore them. Each one of them has to build for me. My theory is that it's because her songwriting is unusual—it takes a while to be able to really hear it. And gradually, I grow to adore them all.
     This is why Veda is my favourite artist, and shows every sign of staying in that place in my heart for a long time. There's something so rich and human about her hesitancies, her passions, her pains, her angers, her joys, her peace.
     Given/despite all the hundreds (well, probably thousands) of artists we've discussed here on ecto and I have subsequently listen to over the years, Veda is my ultimate favourite artist. She has been since spine, and everything she's done since then has simply confirmed that opinion. If you don't at least try her music, you're really missing something. Surprisingly to me not everyone here adores her as much as I do, but many here do. She's challenging, and some people don't like that. I do.
     Hearing her live also helps the songs/albums cement their way in your heart. (Neile)

Veda Hille is great. She has an incredible style. She combines the heavy-hitting piano style that reminds me of Tori Amos, but has the lyrical quirkiness of early Jane Siberry. Plus she blends this all into some unique jazz rhythms, beautiful ballads, and a collection of just plain great songs. (jjhanson@att.net)

her voice was the first thing that struck me, much clearer and accurate than i imagined. i was expecting a heavier voice, but her voice is light and clear, crispy and flying off notes unsuspecting to the ear. the piano work is definitely amazing, original and creatively working with various genres and styles. her words brilliant, really brilliant actually. she sounds like her speaking voice is perfect for spoken-word pieces as well. just her expression is so unique—and ultimately incredible. (enzo1@idt.net)

Well, so far I would say it was worth the months of waiting that i took for Veda's discs to get to me. I think those who like Tori Amos, and Emily Bezar, would like her. I find Veda's lyrics more evocative, though—not necessarily more accessible, but somehow more real and moving to me personally. Veda's lyrics seem more crafted, deliberate, and meaningful. Some are also very disturbing! (Kelley.Hays-Gilpin@nau.edu)

After reading message after message raving about her, I was anxious to hear her music, and I have to say that I was unprepared for what I heard. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but that wasn't it. Her voice was nothing like I thought it would be, and the songs seemed...well...depressing. BUT...I still thought it was very intelligent and emotional music.
     For me it definitely evokes an intensely intellectual/emotional response...just not a happy, pleasant one. To this day, I cannot listen to "Bellyfish". Makes me want to slit my wrists. I guess my overall opinion is that she is very good, and her music is highly intelligent and haunting. I just can't listen to her any old time, though. I have to be in a certain frame of mind or it just pushes me into a funk. (JavaHo@aol.com)

She blows me away. I looove Veda's voice! And her words are pure poetry. And I love the odd time signatures & some of the odd instruments she dares to use, like the saw. (Violaine@juno.com)

I do adore Veda Hille, her piano work is incredible...and distinctive, as well...I can't compare her to any other female pianists...she doesn't sound like Tori *or* Sarah Slean *or* Fiona Apple *or* Emily Bezar. She sounds like Veda Hille, which is the mark of a good artist: the ability to have a distinctive style.
     Veda keeps on amazing me and keeps on amazing me and keeps on amazing me...because she is a brilliant brilliant poet and her lyrics to me DO stand alone as poetry, especially considering that they have that extra added bonus of MUSIC behind them to bring them to that next level...and the two are working in a definite partnership, I find, Veda's lyrics and music...like, from a purely poetic standpoint, the four words at the end of "3xthin" from the new album, the 4 words "shout from shut mouth" are just arresting both their sound and their intent. Consonantly, those four words together just SOUND so goddamned good, and then fit the words into the context of the rest of the lyric and OOH that just thickens the plot so nicely. Mm! Veda makes me want to squeal, I love her so. And then she can go from saying things like "no matter no matter love at last", that are so seemingly simple, deceptively simple even, to such complicated things as, like "six is the sign of the bastard born with no last name", which just kills me every time.... (John.Drummond)

You might think it's impossible for me to be objective when it comes to the music of Veda Hille, but the truth is that I can totally see where everyone who's confessing to not being able to get into her is coming from. I felt the same way for a long time.
     We had Path Of A Body for well over a year before I ever really listened to it. woj had put it on quite a bit, but I was always doing something else and I never paid any attention to it. I wasn't wowed by it at all. Then we got Spine, and I didn't really like it all that much until one night I stopped and actually *listened* to "26 Years". I immediately started the album over again and I realized just how wonderful it is. Then I really listened to Path Of A Body, and discovered that what sounded generic in the background was really a layered, offbeat work of art that unfolded itself in all sorts of wonderful ways. I actually listen to this album a lot more than I do SpineSpine makes me uncomfortable when I listen to it, which isn't a bad thing, and I think it's a brilliant album even so. And I hate the artwork too. But artwork does not a good album make. I just put it under something so I don't have to look at it. It is true that there really isn't anything special about her voice—but it's what she's singing and what's going on underneath it: that's where her brilliance lies.
     I guess "jazzy" really isn't the most appropriate adjective to describe Veda's music (especially when you're talking about Spine). I would use it to describe Path of a Body, though, if only because she's prone to include sections of pseudo-improvised piano in the middle of her songs that does have a jazzy feel to it, but it's not "jazz" per se. I'm sure that makes no sense whatsoever. :}
     I guess what all this is saying is, sometimes it takes time. I went from an "eh" reaction to Veda, to her becoming my supreme musical goddess. Seeing her perform live helps, too. She is simply one of the best live performers I have ever seen. You should definitely pick up her other albums, though—I'm sure you won't be disappointed! And yes, if you ever get the chance, you *must* see her play live.
     If you like Field Study better than Spine, here Is A Picture is a logical next album. It is a thematic album that is similar sonically to Field Study. If Spine were your favorite, then You Do Not Live In This World Alone would be the place to go from there. (meth@smoe.org)

I find it difficult to refer to Veda as jazz, and I've been listening to jazz for some 30 years now, and there *are* elements in Spine that suggest it...mostly the "pseudo-improvised piano" breaks; but I really see her more as a partisan of the Brecht/Lotte Lenya stuff of the '20s & '30s.... Listening to her, I find myself in hazy galleries populated by flappers and Man Ray types and a shadowed figure working a Theremin—just my personal reaction to an incredibly provocative artist. (rkonrad@ibm.net) Like the work of many musical artists, I like some of her songs but not others. I can't think of anyone whose complete repertoire I totally and perfectly adore. Veda is someone I think I have to be in the mood for. I've got all of her albums now, except for Songs for People and Buildings (which is on backorder). And I'll admit that I don't pull out her cds all that often (not that there's anyone in particular whose cds I *do* pull out on a regular basis)...but I enjoy her when I hear her and would love to see her live. (Riphug@aol.com)

The major discovery (for me) of '98 was Veda Hille. (rholmes@cs.stanford.edu)

I've heard a few people say they find Veda boring, and that always comes as a surprise to me. I can understand people disliking her, but she certainly seems to have enough going on to challenge people. (neal)

In all honesty, the best discovery I've made this year is Veda Hille, whose albums I bought and who I got to see in concert. She has instantly become one of my all time favourites, and I avidly look forward to her next release. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

Regarding Veda's albums: "ALL OF THEM! GET THEM ALL! YOU KNOW YOU NEED THEM!"
     Path of a Body is, to me, more of a rock album with more traditional song structures. It's great, but not as out-there-interesting as some of the later stuff. I'm a big fan of here Is a Picture, though for some reason I seem to always fixate on Veda muttering, "dirty dirty dirty". But how could you leave out You Do Not Live in this World Alone? While some of the interludes drive me a bit batty, it's got some of her most amazing songs, including "Killzone!" and "The Williamsburg Bridge".
     Anyway. If you already like two albums by Veda, chances are that somewhere along the line you'll end up owning all of them. (burka@jeffrey.net)

Comments about live performance:

When Veda did a small tour of Germany a friend dragged us along and a good thing that she did! Veda played the Schmuckkaestchen in Köln, a very small, stylishly run down piano bar in a basement. For that specific gig she didn't bring the band, it was just her, sometimes with a guitar but mostly with the grand piano. Started at about 10:00 p.m., a bad time on a friday, where I feel a full working week's tiredness, but it sure was worth staying awake! I had very much disliked the only album I had ever heard from her, path of a body, feeling that she was just a Tori Amos wannabe, but now I admit I have been very wrong! She plays the piano (though not quite as elaborately as Tori) and sings very emotionally, just like Tori, and probably the mixing was done so the general impression felt a bit like Tori. But having seen her live I am sure what she says and does and how she does it is all her own. She's a little more quirky and also I think in some ways more introverted, I don't think she'll ever make it big (perhaps not good for her but good for us, I HATE large venues). On the way there I heard a cassette [songs about people and buildings] with some of her earlier stuff with a bit of a folky/jazzy touch to the music, I liked it very much and the concert felt a lot more like this cassette than the album. (CSpix@t-online.de)

One thing that strikes me about Veda every time I see her live is how comfortable she seems relating to the audience, how mature and strong she comes across, and how funny, too! Another thing is, she keeps getting better and better each time I see her. I assume it's because I'm able to appreciate her more with each exposure, and to me that's a sign of an artist with substance and depth. She was better than ever last night. One of the things I love about Veda is her willingness to muck about with unconventional keys and chords and times and so on. And as she bangs away at the keyboard like a woman possessed, I'm reminded of an interview of Tori Amos in which she says something like she's not a great pianist in a technical sense, but she *understands* the piano. Well, here's another woman who *understands* the piano, and music in general. Veda is one woman whose capacity for musical expression seems boundless. Unfortunately those things that I love about Veda are perhaps those that keep her from mainstream success.
     Anyway Veda was terrific as usual, and thoroughly impressed my Veda-virgin friend who promptly went and picked up her Emily Carr disc (he loves E. Carr). Veda is sheer brilliance. It took me a few of her shows to really warm to her but once I did I was completely hooked. (kamesan@geocities.com)

it's really amazing to watch her play live because her songs are so effortless, so beautiful, so lyrical. her music is really something special. (woj@smoe.org)

I was blown away by how brilliant she was live.
     Veda Hille played a great show at the Acoustic Cafe (Bridgeport, CT) in June. It was my first time seeing Veda in... well, way too long. Veda was simply jawdropping.
     again at woj-n-meth's House O' Muzak a couple of days later was even better. Despite the heat. The horrible, horrible heat. Veda performed Field Studies, and showed the film that goes with it. (12/01, mcurry@io.com)

I was quite impressed by Veda, particularly the poetic quality of her lyrics. I'd definitely go see her again, and I was impressed enough to buy copies of two of her discs on the spot. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

I had seen Veda do solo shows, but this was the first time we'd seen her with a band. Veda with a band rocks! The songs had so much more power and punch. She played a lot of the Emily Carr songs and a smattering from Spine and Path of a Body. Ford is a dynamic presence on guitar, often more interesting to watch than Veda herself. He unleashed rhythmic bursts that were accompanied by his own spurts of motion. Ok, so sometimes he wandered into wankerdom, but most of the time his playing pushed the music to another level. On one song the drummer came out and played a saw. I can't remember the song, but it fit perfectly. It's funny, I can't remember a lot of the specifics from the show, but I remember "three" seemed particularly powerful and she played a beautiful version of "and birds". I also remember some really emotional Emily Carr songs, particularly "15 years" (wheww), "titles" and "woo". (12/98)
     EctoFest West: I've seen Veda a bunch of times, but she was totally on that night. A big part of that was probably the piano. After one song, she said she wanted that piano at every show, and she clearly loved it. She was playing so hard and passionately, it was really amazing. Veda stole the show with one of the most riveting performances I've seen, and one that left her in tears. The best performance I saw this year. (06/01, neal)

I had always thought her sound melodic, but slightly atonal—giving it a complexity I had always attributed on her CDs to sophisticated production. Well, if you have never seen Veda live, let me tell you that Veda singing and playing her piano or her 4-string tenor guitar are unmistakably Veda. The simplicity of the arrangements are filled out beautifully by slightly dissonant sophistication of her vocal and playing style. It's just amazing. I remember myself thinking that several times throughout her set—"Amazing!" (drewh@bitwise.com)

When I'm sitting in a room watching Veda Hille perform I am 100% sure that if a brick were to fall on my head in the next five minutes, I'll die happy.
     The best concert I saw in 1999 was Veda Hille and her Skilled and Devoted Band at the Starfish Room, in Vancouver, BC, 9/11/99. I flew to Vancouver just to see this show, the CD release party for You Do Not Live In This World Alone, and it was definitely worth the trip. The band was tight, the music great, and it was incredible to see Veda in front of her hometown crowd. Thanks, woj. :)
     The a cappella "birdsong" aria is an as-yet-unrecorded piece which was commissioned by someone. It consists of Veda singing in the style of the indigenous British Columbian songbirds, and as the piece goes on you realize that not only is she singing words, but they're lyrics and they tell a story. It's incredible. (The first few lines are: "Heeere, sweetsweet...Heeeere, sweetsweet, chickadee chickadee sweetsweet sorrow....") I was amused to see her run that straight into "Killzone" (the most kickass song she's ever written) again, like she did at the Vancouver Folk Festival—that just works SO well. It's jarring and subversive and makes everyone jump about a foot when it happens. I love it.
     "Shamus And Stone" was the surprise of the night. I'd never heard her play it before, and Zubot & Dawson added just the right touches with their fiddle and steel guitar, respectively. I usually skip over that track on Spine, coming as it does at the end of the album and it's never really done much for me, but live it was a revelation.
     The second, solo encore was a delight. I didn't recognize the Morrissey song as such, but I knew it was a cover. Then when that was done she was noodling at the piano obviously trying to decide what to play, and into that moment of indecision I tossed out a request for "26 Years", which she immediately launched into. I was really happy—I'd been thinking to myself that that song was the only thing missing from the evening, and others in the room were obviously happy to hear it as well.
     Personnel-wise, there weren't any surprises—I'd sort of been thinking some people besides the Skilled And Devoted Band might show up, it being a hometown show and all, but it remained just Ford Pier, Barry Murachnick, and Martin Walton backing Veda up. Not that there was anything wrong with that, of course. :) Ford managed to play every instrument on the stage over the course of the set, including French Horn and melodica at various points. He never ceases to amaze me.
     All in all, it was the best show I've seen Veda et al. do. They were on, they were having a good time, and simply everything, even the really quiet numbers like "Batterie" kicked in their own ways. Plus, it was a different experience for me, to be in a room with at least 400 other people who were there just to see Veda play. (I'm used to maybe 40 tops, in NYC.) My friend said she really liked it, and I know she wasn't just saying that. (09/99)
     EctoFest West: Next it was Veda Hille's turn to take the stage. I was almost beside myself by that point, as it had been almost a year and a half since I'd last gotten to hear her play. She opened on the tenor guitar with "INSTRUCTIONS", then moved to the glorious grand piano and did a set of songs from Field Study, interspersed with some songs that really allowed her to cut loose on the piano, including the loosest rendition of "Driven" that I've ever heard. She remarked after that song that she wanted to take that piano with her everywhere, and play it every night for the rest of her life. After each song the applause got louder, until the standing ovation at the end of her set which brought her back for the first encore of the evening, a stunning version of the hymn "Tuktiaktuk" from Field Study.
     I was amazed at the reception she got. There were quite a few die-hard fans in the audience (heck, you can't get much more die-hard than Neile and myself :), but far more people had either never seen her live or had never heard of her—and after her set, you couldn't get anywhere near the merchandise area. She was feeling it, too—she was relaxed and having fun, and her performance conveyed the sheer enjoyment she was taking in the entire experience. She told me afterwards that it was so good to play in a place full of "people who care". In fact, she said the sweetest thing I heard from the stage all night: she mentioned how great it was to play for the ectophiles, those people who have been supporting her and showing up at her shows for years mentioning the ecto connection, and congratulated us on our ten years on the Net. (06/01)
     Veda Hille's Living Concert at the House of Muzak: It was 100 degrees with matching humidity, the living room was jammed with people, and we ran out of ice before the show even started. But oh, was it ever worth it. The first set was filled with rousing renditions of my favorite songs, and then for the second set we were treated to the U.S. premiere of the multimedia production of Field Study. Simply amazing. I still can't believe it happened in my own house. (12/01, meth@smoe.org)

as for the veda hille concert / cd release, i had a great time. i'd forgotten what an experience it is to see veda live. the first song she did i was a little worried, as the volume was cranked so high i almost couldn't make out any tune, let alone words, but after that it settled down and even the high-volume rockers were comprehensible. :) (c. 1999)
     i was lucky to be at the cd launch earlier this month (with art), which was wonderful. veda puts on such a great show. first she opened with duplex, which was fun—i hadn't seen them perform before. then, out came the eight-piece veda orchestra and off we went on another veda musical extravaganza. some new faces and some people she's been playing with forever like ford pier, patsy klein, peggy lee, and the bass player whose name i forget.
     i had not even heard samples of the new songs before this, and i must confess i don't have great concert hearing, but i thoroughly enjoyed the show anyway. i haven't actually had much chance to listen to the cd yet, though i think if it weren't veda i might have had a somewhat nonplussed first reaction, but i *know* by now that most anything veda does is going to grow on me pretty quickly, so i just kept listening and i quite love it now, though i still don't feel i've fully grokked it.
     she also played one song that she introduced as a kind of musical about alien abduction, which was fun. i was disappointed when she mentioned that it wasn't on the album! i think she said she'd be releasing it on itunes or some such. (3/08, damon)

Every performance of Veda's has been brilliant, intimate and incredible. (stone@pangea.ca)

She was great. I only knew You Do Not Live..., and it was fantastic hearing other material. She was very warm, very open, humorous and—well, brilliant. She won the audience over who were either wholly ignorant of who she was or who had raised expectations from the Time Out review, and could have done an encore or two, from the reaction afterwards. I feel honoured to have seen her. (7/00)
     Veda played two sets—a sort of "greatest hits" first, then a multi-media presentation of Field Study. This is still, despite repeated attempts, far from my favourite album of hers, and I'm not sure that the show did much to change my mind—it's still a work I can respect rather than like. I'm glad I got a chance to see her do it live, though, and the audience certainly appreciated it. For the encore, she performed Abba's "Mamma Mia" in tribute to her host, Matthew Woodhead. Now, I've never, ever, been an Abba fan, not even in my most ironic of moods, but I actually found myself thinking "Hey, this is GOOD!". A lovely rendition of "Precious Heart" made my night, for sure. My only caveat, really, is that I missed her guitar, which I think is a wondrous thing. (03/02)
     Blame it on Halloween, on the sudden cold snap, or on the fact that London was all ectoed out, but Veda played to a dismally small crowd at the 12 Bar last night. For those of you out there who know the 12 Bar, it's quite something when that place feels cavernous and cold.
     I spoke to Veda beforehand, and she admitted that this tour hadn't been very highly publicised (I only found out about it last week, myself), but she still went on to give a great show, although at 45 minutes it was a bit shorter than I'd hoped. It was great to finally hear songs from the excellent Return of the Kildeer done live, and she threw in some new songs from an album she'll be recording in the new year which sounded great. She'd brought the tenor guitar along, but only played a couple of songs on it and mainly stuck to keyboards.
     The overriding feeling from the evening (apart from embarrassment) was one of frustration. Return of the Kildeer was the best album of last year for me (and nothing this year has come close, either) one I still play repeatedly and never get tired of, one that I don't hesitate to recommend to anyone who I know loves music. And yet here Veda was, the creator of that musical gem, playing to a total of about eight people. To say she deserves better is a massive understatement. I only hope that her audiences pick up for the rest of her brief UK tour. (11/06, adamk@zoom.co.uk)

I just wanted to be the first to praise Veda's concert in Seattle last night. She appeared solo, but managed to captivate everyone.
     Just a few interesting facts for you all.
     Veda announced at the start of her concert that she had just gotten married twelve days ago. She flashed her ring to my friends and I before the concert. Veda seemed happy and in top form. No odd Veda-hair; perhaps wedded bliss has calmed her hair?
     Veda also talked about the new cd she will be recording this fall—whose themes/obsessions she said are science and nature—and then went on to play an absolutely beautiful new piece whose lyrics were in part taken from a science report she wrote at the age of six.
     There were a few technical difficulties at the onset of her set, mostly revolving around her breaking two strings during her first song.
     Veda played a selection from Here is a picture, and did a stunning acoustic version of "Williamsburg Bridge." Also, highlights for me were "Born Lucky" and "Thin."
     It was a great performance by Veda and served to remind me again of the incredible range of Veda's writing and voice. I love hearing Veda and her band, but it's refreshing to hear her perform by herself where she really shines. Also, judging from the new songs Veda played, it's clear that Veda keeps getting better and better. (10/00, jmgurley@drizzle.com)

Veda was premiering and also recording live a new series of songs (Field Study) based on science and nature and on her trip to the Yukon this past summer with a bunch of other performance artists. It is an incredible sequence of songs, incorporating, seamlessly, a couple of her earlier pieces. It was really affecting, and I feel honoured to have been there to hear it at the actual recording. And I tried to be quiet as a mouse, honest I did. And I managed to sit on my hands and not applaud in between songs, as she asked us not to do because it would interrupt the flow of the songs, and I'm so glad she did. It made the experience that much more powerful.
     It was just her, solo, at the piano, and behind her some stunning video work that she herself had commissioned to go with the songs.
     An amazing show. Veda truly knocks me out every time I hear her live. And on record, for that matter.
     We saw her for a brief moment before the show, just long enough for her to say that she was sick as a dog. You would never have known from the power of her presence, or of her voice, or of her performance that she was feeling a hair less than magnificent.
     The concert was powerful, intimate, and joyous. (12/00, Neile)

EctoFest West: Veda simply kicked ass. Man was she awesome on piano. (06/01, jjhanson@att.net)

Recommended first album:

spine or You Do Not Live In This World Alone or Return of the Kildeer or This Riot Life. Really, nab any disc of hers you can. Play it a few times—it will grab hold of your heart and mind and won't let go. (Neile)

Recordings:


songs about people and buildings

Release info:

1991—Ball of Flames Productions, Box 4763, VMPO, Vancouver, BC, Canada M6B 4A4—VH 111 (available on cassette only)

Availability:

Can be found in Vancouver stores and at her concerts or by mail order from Ball of Flames Productions

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended (Neile)

Group members:

Veda Hille—vocals, piano, accordion

Guest artists:

Vedo Menzies—guitar
John Wade—bass
Dylan Weslowsky—drums and percussion
Albert Klassen—bass
Russell Shumsky—drums
Peggy Lee—cello
Cameron Eckert—mandolin
Evani Goli—backing vocals, percussion

Produced by:

Ball of Flames Productions

Comments:

it's less challenging than her later work, but it is still good and has the promise that she fulfilled on her second album. (woj@smoe.org)

This tape is great. "I Dance Alone" is a song that jumps around in my head a lot—it's catchy in the extreme. "Conversation with the Dead" and "Neighbourhood Song" are brilliant, too. woj is right, though, that it is less challenging and more simply fun than her later work. I love it—it's the first Veda I heard, and is her folkiest-sounding collection and probably the easiest for the more general listener to get into. The songs and overall sound are more conventionally structured than her later albums, and it's basically very upbeat and shows Veda's love of life which is so apparent when you see her play live. It's a younger-sounding work but not at all immature. I highly recommend it. (Neile)

It's different from her later work, it's definitely a much younger tone and sound, but it's still very very good. I think "Laine" ranks up there with "Precious Heart" (from path of a body) and "26 Years" (from spine) in terms of gorgeous factor. Yow. (meth@smoe.org)


path of a body

Release info:

1993—Ball of Flames Productions, Box 4763, VMPO, Vancouver, BC, Canada M6B 4A4—VH-112-2

Availability:

Canadian disc stores that carry independent releases or by mail order from Ball of Flames Productions

Ecto priority:

extremely high (Neile)

Group members:

Veda Hille—piano, vocals, minimal accordion
Stephen Nikleva—guitars, mandolin
Martin Walton—fretless bass, lap steel
Steve Lazin—drums, percussion

Guest artists:

Peggy Lee—cello
Evani Goll—backing vocals
The Eleventh Hour Uncontrollable Gospel Choir—shout chorus

Produced by:

Veda Hille, Stephen Nikleva, and Greg Reely

Comments:

every time i listen to it, it grows on me more and more, and i honestly think it's becoming one of my favourite albums of all time. my favourites are the first three songs, "driven", "precious heart" and "three", but the whole album moves me incredibly. wonderful blend of music and lyrics, with the music sometimes soft and beautiful, sometimes loud and jarring...the perfect blend for me. (damon)

a great discovery. (abehrend@direct.ca)

Wow—I've totally obsessed with the whole album of path of a body. This is quirky and jumpy and sweet and a little folky and bluesy and also lively. She turns it all into her own mix. She's also got a great sense of humour: "I need this depression, it keeps my heartrate down...". This was one of my favourite albums of 1994 and I still listen to it all the time. There are some more outstanding songs than others (the merely very very good songs), but I love the whole thing and the way it works together as a whole. So few albums manage this. Path of a body is a clear step between Veda's early slightly folkier sound and her more experimental spine sound. It's a mix of beautiful, gentle songs like "and birds" and powerhouse songs like "driven". (Neile)

I have a LOT of albums that seem to work together as a whole, but to me, path of a body isn't really one of them. But there are some songs I really do like a lot. "Driven", "Precious Heart", and I think "With No Caring". Some I actively dislike, but most just kinda lie there. I guess I just don't much like her experimental jazzish style, and her lyrics (I admit it! I don't like her lyrics!) Ah well, strokes'n'folks! :) (NyxNight@aol.com)

My favorite of them all this year. Every time I listen to it, when each song starts I think—this is my favorite song on the album—at least until the next one starts. I highly recommend this—but it isn't easy to find—I know—I've been looking, and I'll definitely be following Veda's career for a while. (jjhanson@att.net)

path of a body and women in (e)motion are not as soul-grabbing as Spine yet but they're growing on me like kudzu. (brad@lightfallsdesign.com)

dunno about this. all this raving about her, i picked up the CD and i still think it may be verging on that ectobland side of the spectrum for me. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

bland? with all those oddball time signatures? her rich lyrics? that *gorgeous* sense of rhythm? *boggle* one listen into it, the only thing i could think was "wow!" (woj@smoe.org)

I find Spine to be a bit punchier that Path of a Body, but I love Path of a Body. I think it's got a beauty and power to it, and a lot of the songs seem really amazing to me. Veda really compels me to listen to her lyrics though. But it took me multiple listens to "Driven" before I unraveled what was going on. Stuff like "She scribbles notes while driving, oh good, another red light" and the whole deal about being in a bar by yourself to see a band (the Rheostatics, cool name dropping) and some of how that feels. And the quiet searching of someone compelled to find something "there's so much to see, and so far to go, and just enough gas in the tank." And "Precious Heart" is so beautiful. And poignant. You might like Spine better, as it is a rougher-sounding disc, but if you are left cold by this one, I probably wouldn't highly recommend it to you. (Though I think it's pretty damn wonderful.) While I love this album, it is not as challenging from a surface listen. (neal)

When I want to introduce someone to Veda's music who isn't used to being challenged so much, I loan them Path of a Body. It's certainly her most accessible album. I still love it, but it's not the difficult listening hour her new one, You Do Not Live In This World Alone is by any stretch of the imagination. I think that it is a better introduction to her music than Spine. It's a lot more fun to listen to. It's got much more inocuous artwork, for those for whom that's an issue, and it's also got some of the most gorgeous songs ever in "Precious Heart" and "And Birds". (meth@smoe.org)


women in (e)motion festival (live)

Release info:

1996—Tradition & Moderne (Radio Bremen), Musikproduktion, Keplerstrasse 28, 28304 Bremen, Germany; Telefon (0421) 7 49 56, FAX (0421) 7 88 70—T&M 111

Availability:

Germany, and available at some online disc stores

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Veda Hille fans. (Neile)

Group members:

Veda Hille—vocals, piano, tenor guitar
Stephen Nikleva—guitar, mandolin
Martin Walton—bass
Paul Brennan—drums, percussion

Produced by:

Petra Smith (Producer of the "women in (e)motion" series)

Comments:

This is a collection of songs mostly from path of a body and spine recorded live for Radio Bremen in January 1996. While I enjoy this disc, I play her others far more often because it doesn't quite manage to capture how amazing Veda is live (though it gets close to it). If you like this one, you will love her other albums; if you love her other albums, you'll be glad to have this. (Neile)

Women in (E)motion lived in my car all summer. Amazing stuff, and I'm dying for the day I finally get to see Veda live. (neal)

Wow. This is good. I'm surprised at how much I like this record really...I was a bit apprehensive before buying it as descriptions of Veda Hille's music always seemed to mention jazz, and I definitely am not that fond of jazzy music in general—I admit to not understanding/feeling whatever it is one is supposed to understand/feel about it (besides, I have an inexplicable dislike for the sound of most wind instruments). But my worries about this album vanished in no timexzzxx The "Women in (E)motion" album is my first dose of Veda's music, but won't be the last. What can I say...Ecto has introduced another wonderful artist to me.... "26 years"...speechless.... ("Stupid Polka" lives up to it's name, though, or maybe "silly" would be more like it.) Will have to find the other albums somewhere.... (jsorva@niksula.hut.fi)


spine

Release info:

1996—Ball of Flames Productions, Box 4763, VMPO, Vancouver, BC, Canada M6B 4A4—VH 113-2; rereleased by Bottom Line Records in the U.S., May 1998

Availability:

U.S. and Canadian stores that sell independent recordings and by mail order from Ball of Flames Productions. Also available at most online disc sellers.

Ecto priority:

Extremely high. (Neile)

Group members:

Veda Hille—vocals, tenor guitar, pianos, marble & cups, megapet, organ

Guest artists:

Stephen Nikleva—mandola, electric guitar, alarm guitar
Andy Stochansky—dumbeck, handclaps, yakbak, drum kit & loop
Ben Grossman—dumbek, davul, dig drum, riqq
Paul Brennan—drum kit, snare drum
Martin Walton—bass
Peggy Lee—cello
David Trevers-Smith—loop, distorto voice, trumpet
Kaitlin Duggan—voice
Don Kerr—elastic bands, balsa wod, drum kit
David Woodhead—bass
Ford Pier—electric guitar
Barbara Lynch—voice

Produced by:

Veda Hille with David Travers-Smith

Comments:

Yes! The new Veda is thoroughly, 100% incredible! It's one of those albums where I can't decide whether to listen all the way through the album (because nothing on it is bad!) or skip to the really, incredibly godlike songs (thereby missing all the merely wonderful ones!—sniffle). I am obsessed with "26 years". The whole album is just incredible, and she's quickly working her way into my list of goddesses (which currently contains exactly two people). But, frankly, that one song might have caused me to put her on the Goddess list even without the rest of the album. :) (NyxNight@aol.com)

An absolutely brilliant, powerful, musically inventive album that shows Veda Hille's growth as an artist and her willingness to share that growth with the audience. It's a total knockout with a wide range of emotion and totally individual tunes and lyrics, creative and fresh. Don't miss it. (Neile)

Yow, this is one sick pup. :) Crunchy musical twists and turns, a voice quite reminiscent of Sarah McLachlan (though not as soaring), and lyrics you can wrap your brain around for months, all stuck together with gleefully dark and foreboding glue. What a brilliant piece of work this is! The bridge of "26 Years" an utterly scrumptious melody. (meth@smoe.org)

As Neile and meth have already raved, I'll just say that this album deserves all their praise. Veda's talent amazes me—both as a lyricist and as a musician. Her voice ain't too bad either. The closest thing I can think of to her would be Tori Amos, but while Tori's most recent lyrics are just plain weird, Veda's are truly poetic. And her piano playing ain't too shabby either. (jjhanson@att.net)

Spine is awesome!! It has hardly been out of my CD player in the 3 weeks since I got it! (Horter3)

The first thing that struck me about the CD was the packaging—it was kinda repulsive when you looked closer and realised the "Spine" placard was sewn onto her. (Then again, I put myself into those situations when I look at pictures like that and think, "wow, if I did that it would really hurt!") The music itself is pleasant, which probably sounds like damning with faint praise. I have a feeling I'm going to have to see her live for so much of these songs to go beyond the pleasant stage and actually register with me. I like her dark, aphoristic songwriting and strong voice, but some of the songs sound like tributes to other songwriters I like. Which isn't necessarily an insult, since it's not as blatant as, say, Jewel's "tributes" to Ani Difranco and Tori Amos—I can actually hear Veda underneath. There are sections of the first song that sound like Tori Amos' new single, and parts of "6 Feet of Silence" remind me of Nina Simone's "Four Women". My opinion of Veda is overall favourable, though a bit lukewarm. Spine made me want to seek out more of her stuff, which is hardly a bad thing.
     I did have a big musical rediscovery of Veda Hille, whose work was pleasant enough when I first tripped upon it. While I can't say that I've bonded with it, I must admit that I was listening to it the other day and certain things just jumped out at me and make me say, "whoa!" The biggest factor that's bitten me is the song "strange, sad"...listening to it in passing, I thought, "oh, pretty folk song." When I had tuned in a bit closer and realised that its nicely tuneful melody belied and contrasted with the lyrics, which seem to partially be about a car crash. Yikes—that changes the entire way I heard the song. While she doesn't have the je ne sais quoi that would catapult her to "artistic hero" status, she's starting to look a little more interesting. (tugboat@channel1.com)

I do like it (except for "Bellyfish"—the chorus gets on my nerves), but more in the sense that I like her as an artist and would be interested to hear what else she has out there. (JavaHo@aol.com)

Most awesome. Wonderful. Excellent. Gee, are there any other adjectives I'm missing? :-) I also have Here is a picture (Songs for E Carr), but really enjoy spine. (Matt.Bittner)

I recently ordered Spine, out of curiosity, and because I mostly trust meth. My first run through the disc elicited a, "Uh, yeah. Whatever." It clicked on the second run, though, and I absolutely adore it now. (burka@jeffrey.net)

Anyway, came across Spine the other day and quickly snapped it up. WHERE HAVE I BEEN??? Instant love. I sooo the entire thing, but especially "bellyfish," "instructions" and "6 feet of silence." I guess the next step is for me to find her other recordings. The Ectophile's Guide puts her in the Beautiful and Fierce category, and that's so fitting. She can bring you to tears on minute, slay you with metaphor the next. I dig that. "Bellyfish"—gosh, that song doesn't come off as disturbing or unpleasant, and definitely not bland, to me at all. (Plasterofstevie@aol.com)

"Strange, Sad" is one of the most beautiful songs I've heard—a yearning longing kind of surreal sadness. Another great song is "One Hot Summer". "Song for Snake" is right up there. And whoever said it is right, "Bellyfish" is disturbing. I love "Instructions", too. Well, I guess what I'm saying is that Veda is the discovery of *the year* for me. I hope it lasts for many years. (rholmes@cs.stanford.edu)

I picked up Spine due to ecto recommendations and i really dig it. It's definitely got its share of tougher music, not so much in the crunchy, distorted guitar vein, but in the semi-acoustic, pissed-off, intense way. After the praise this woman has received on Ecto, how could I not check her out? I was not disappointed. Hille coined the phrase "beautiful and fierce" on this album, which was co-opted for the Ectophiles Guide to Good Music as a musical style. It certainly fits her. Sparse, acoustic music swirls dangerously around Hille's unsettling lyrics. And yet songs like "Strange, Sad" will emerge from the desolation with tender beauty that takes my breath away. I'm looking forward to hearing more of her work! (colford@chlotrudis.org)

I can now add my voice to the chorus of those who sing her praises in Ectoland. My expectations were high but the hoop-la proved to be entirely justified. (jjh969@juno.com)

i think spine is a fiercer, more accomplished, more immediately intense record than path of a body, but i like them both. (woj@smoe.org)

I am utterly *utterly* besotted with Spine. (ectophil@netlink.co.nz)

Thanks to all those who have "talked up" Veda Hille over the last few months. I took the plunge and ordered Spine. She is quite amazing and am enjoying the CD over and over. (bravegirl@earthlink.net)

The first time I heard this it was for some reason totally different from what I expected. I don't know why I had thought Spine would be a more keyboard / synthetic oriented album?!? I really had to adjust to the dark bluesy jazzy guitar sound, but after a couple of listens the album rapidly grew on me. Beautiful and fierce are good words to describe it, I think. It's not an album to listen to while doing something else, it demands full attention which is the main reason that I haven't listened to it for some months now. I'm sure I'll get back to it next year though. My favourite song is the beautiful "Strange, sad", but also "Slumber queen" and "Bellyfish", and "Instructions", and the singing saw in "Sweet", and if I were to listen to the album now I could probably find more favourites. "26 Years", while it seems to be a favourite song for most Veda fans, hasn't done all that much extra for me yet though. Maybe because I haven't paid that much attention to the lyrics yet, and I'm not sure if I will, because I'm not sure they would be too dark and painful for my liking, so that it would spoil the album for me. Okay, call me weird. :-) (Marion)

I'm one of those not able to appreciate it. I think my biggest problem with the CD is that a lot of the songs just make me feel unpleasant. And I'm not really sure why because I often actively like disturbing/depressing art. I don't feel like Spine is any more disturbing than other music (or films or books) I *do* like. But I just feel queasy after listening to it. I'm usually in complete agreement with the reviews of the Ectophiles who have raved about Veda Hille, but I just can't get into her. The music is interesting and far from bland, but it just doesn't click with me. Something about it leaves me completely cold. I still have Veda, since there is some potential there. I keep thinking one day it will click with me, but thus far it hasn't happened. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

I really wanted to like it, considering how many other Ectophiles think she's the cat's meow, but after 2 listens, I can't say it does anything for me. Some of the songs are good, but I have to be honest and say that I just don't like her voice. It isn't that it's weird or anything. I love some pretty weird voices (Victoria Williams, Betsy Martin from Caterwaul, Alison Shaw from Cranes, Diamanda Galas, etc.) but hers is just the opposite. Maybe it's different live or on other records, but on this particular one, it's ordinary to the point of being overly familiar. In other words, even though I had never heard Veda before, I'd heard her "voice" lots of times. Her voice has a strident, "womyn's music" quality to it that rubs me the wrong way, has always rubbed me the wrong way, though the music is generally of a much higher quality and I assume the lyrics are better. I'll give it a couple more listens, and I'll also try the other albums. There are lots of artists who have one album I dislike and another album I love (Zoe is a *great* example) so I promise I won't judge her (or her voice) on just this one. If I change my mind (it has been known to happen) I'll certainly say so. But yeah, Spine to me so far is ectobland personified, though a subsequent listen leads me to say that I'll give you that she's got an imagination sorely lacking in most artists. Her voice wasn't quite as painful to listen to on some songs, the more interesting songs. (vickie@enteract.com)

Yes, Spine is a very uncomfortable listen, and the cover art does match the whole feel of the album. (For those who don't know, the cover shows Veda's upper back and the back of her head with a placard reading "Spine" sewn—yes, sewn—between her shoulder blades. Other pictures show various stages of the attachment.) It sounds like the instruments are all just slightly out of tune—not enough to be annoying, but just enough to put you on edge. Which leads me to my theory: Some people will find, like riding in a boat or car, that it makes them sick. Some may not be able to physically listen to the album.
     Note to anyone who finds it bland: Try listening to it on headphones while reading the lyrics. If you come back and still call it bland then, um, I guess I'll just have to deal with it :). (mageeol@ro.com)

Now that I've had Veda Hille's Spine for a while, it's grown on me quite a bit. It's something of a difficult listening hour at times, but I really enjoy Veda's lyrical imagery. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

I've had spine for almost a year and have been steadily obsessed with it. (John.Drummond)

Spine is one of my recent favorite CDs. (drewh@bitwise.com)

I have to agree with everybody that is an awe of this album. It is such a beautiful cd...it took forever to get through my first listen, because several times I was compelled to restart a track over immediately after it was finished. It is an amazing album. (river@grapevine.net)


Veda Hille (7" vinyl promo)

Release info:

c. 1998—Bottom Line Records

Availability:

Promo only—hard to find

Ecto priority:

For Veda Hille completists only

Comments:

A 7" 33rpm spinner. Cover has the Fig. 53 Pulse sketch. Inside labels have sketches of two men trying to revive a woman.
Tracks:
  • Inspiration (side 1)
    • Bellyfish
    • Strange, sad, stone ("deranged by Christof Migone at Avatar in Quebec City, February 1998")
  • Expiration (side 2)
    • Sweet (over the wire) ("realignment and bass tracks by Andy Stochansky; digital engineering and guitar effects by Peter Horvath at Liberty Studios in Toronto, February 1998")
    • six, shamus, silence ("dissolved by Christof Migone at Avatar in Quebec City, February 1998")

Here is a picture (Songs for E Carr)

Release info:

1997—Ball of Flames Productions, Box 4763, VMPO, Vancouver, BC, Canada M6B 4A4—VH 114-2

Availability:

Presently in Canadian stores that carry indie releases or by mail from Ball of Flames Productions. Soon to have U.S. distribution.

Ecto priority:

High

Group members:

Veda Hille—voice, tenor guitar, arm-and-broomstick, tiny bit of organ and monkey sounds

Guest artists:

Ford Pier—electric guitar, organ and falling over
Peggy Lee—cello
Martin Walton—bass
Barry Mirochnick—drum kit, shakers, guitar, saw, toy piano innards, pencil-and-paper, and Walt Whitman's voice
R Crow—Trompe-l'oiseau

Comments:

Here is a picture is a cycle of songs based on the life and writings of Canadian painter and writer, Emily Carr, originally commissioned by a dance group, and as such is a bit of a departure from Veda's main musical trajectory. It's mostly softer in sound, and though the pieces of it are lovely individually, its impact is more as a whole, in the journey travelled over the entire cd. The cycle is a delight and it surprises me how very much I like it. You see, when I heard Veda do these songs in concert before the album's release I liked them but never loved them as I love the songs from her other collections. Maybe it's the fact that I can hear them now in context and not in a pub where everyone is yakking around me, but I find this album wonderful and affecting. And most miraculously, it does give a sense of a life progressing. How does Veda accomplish this so well? I don't really know, but I find this an amazing, effective collection. For me the songs work magically in context, and I love how the themes, both musical and subject, are woven throughout this piece. It has the same evocative effect for me that Emily Carr's paintings have—it's brilliant, quiet, tumultuous, passionate, quiet, cold, stern, restrained, fiery. (Neile)

I just got this, so I'm not sure what staying power this will have, but definitely a great album on the first couple of listens. (jjhanson@att.net)

This is music that resonates in my soul, from the first plaintive piano note to the last, fading into the distance at the end. The melody shared by "Boat Ride To Skidegate" and "Meeting The Group of 7" is one of the most gorgeous ever. This is one I'll be discovering over and over again for a long time. (meth@smoe.org)

This is a masterpiece, but must be taken in its entirety. I never play one song—the whole CD is the song. (spike45@sos.net)


You Do Not Live In This World Alone

Release info:

1999—Ball of Flames Productions, Box 4763, VMPO, Vancouver, BC, Canada M6B 4A4—VH115-2

Availability:

Wide in Canada

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Veda Hille—tenor guitar, piano, organ, voice, accordion, banjo

Guest artists:

Martin Walton—bass, pedal steel
Ford Pier—electric guitar, all manner of organs, french horn, nylon string guitar, synthesizer, bass on "Williamsburg," drums on "3xthin," wrote string quartet and horn parts
Barry Mirochnick—drums, tambourine, toy piano, real piano on "Clumbsy," voice, small things hit with sticks, keyboard on "Ponyride," guitar on "3xthin"
Peggy Lee—cello
Eric Napier—euphonium
Andy Coddrington—trombone
Oh Susanna—sings on "Williamsburg"
Kinnie Starr—sings on "Ponyride"
Alex Varty—glassy guitar on "Veterans," right side of the guitar argument on "Killzone!"
Sheila McDonald—first violin
Marie Claude Brunet—viola
Paula Wise—violin
Martin Tielli—sings a note somewhere

Comments:

Like her last two albums, I was lukewarm about it at first but immediately it began to grow and grow and grow on me until I can see its utter brilliance. She truly is an amazing artist and performer, and this album only serves to confirm that she's my favourite artist. There is something so warmly human about her hesitancies and passions that I cannot resist. I've learned to just keep listening, as familiarity with the songs makes them stronger, and my initial mild attraction to the songs gradually grows and grows...and shows every sign of keeping on growing. (Neile)

It's worth the trouble to get it. I'm starting to get used to the studio versions after hearing the songs live so many times, and after a shaky start it's growing on me very quickly. It's strange to be already intimately familiar with every single song on a CD before you ever hear it. I have the live versions ingrained in my brain, and it's taking time to sort them out so I can deal with them not only from the studio, but in the order in which they've been placed. Plus, there is some electronic noise/noodling underlying the entire thing, which instead of enhancing the experience for me is just distracting.
     But still, this is a great set of songs. Veda has become an adaptive songwriter of the highest caliber: the storytelling in "3xThin" and the setting-to-music of the pulp fiction in "Killzone!" are on a level with anything Kate Bush has ever done. Bleeps and bloops aside, I love this album, and I know it's going to have staying power. The album has some of her most amazing songs: in addition to the ones mentioned I would add "Born Lucky", "Peculiar Value", and the utterly stunning should-have-been-an-alt-rock-hit "Wrong". (meth@smoe.org)

A lot of people have been saying that this album took a bit to grow on them, but then they really loved it, and I can see that, but I don't think it will take as much time to grow on me as Here Is a picture did. I've only had a chance to listen to it once so far but I liked what I heard, and I'm looking forward to listening to it again tomorrow when I can present more coherent thoughts on it. (JoAnn Whetsell)

I think I would have preferred a "prettier" album from Veda, but this one is certainly intriguing and Veda's lyrics never cease to amaze me. Plus there are some beautiful moments. It is anything but boring—it's incredibly odd, but still quite Veda, while being different than anything she's done before. I find it quite fascinating, but it's a horrible disc to play in the car, because the volume dynamics are really extreme. I find it a departure from her bouncy jazz/pretty ballad discs, and much more experimental than her previous works. It's full of strange noises, and while less melodic than her previous work, it retains her inherent musicability—I think this woman could make jackhammers and traffic noise beautiful. (jjhanson@att.net)

I'm not sure why this album has been slow to grow on people. From the moment I heard it, I thought wow! Granted, it is noisier than I was expecting, but in an exciting and exhilarating way. Veda never ceases to amaze me, and has definitely vaulted into my pantheon in the last few years. (neal)

I had heard most of the material live, so I knew I was going to love the CD when it was released. (mcurry@io.com)

makes me smile. enough said. (sketches@earthlink.net)

When I first heard Veda, some years ago, I knew I was not in for an easy listen, but I knew it was a challenging listen. Veda is not the type of artist, you just sit back and let her do all the work. No, she won't allow you to be lazy, she requires listener participation, and that alone may keep some people from deep listening. You are immediately shaken from your comfort zone by dissonant chords and unfamiliar musical progressions. For those irritated with the unfamiliar, it may be a quick exit, but the more daring may find huge rewards in what Veda is doing. Every time I hear a new Veda CD, I automatically reserve a block of time for proper listening, it's not surface stuff, but deeper level material. (jsutton@hrmusic.com)

I received my copy of You Do Not Live in this World Alone a few days ago, and have been playing it pretty constantly—a very interesting, brave and challenging work, and one that will definitely lead me to more of her stuff. (6/00, adamk@zoom.co.uk)

As brilliant as Spine was. The ever-inspiring Veda continues to amaze. A true goddess. (stjarnell@yahoo.com)


field study

Release info:

2001—Ball of Flames Productions, Box 4763, VMPO, Vancouver, BC, Canada M6B 4A4—vh-116-2

Availability:

Wide in Canada

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Veda Hille—piano, voice

Guest artists:

Bessie Wapp, SB Boyko, Christine Duncan—vocal contributions on "birdsong"
Martin Tielli—oral and manual whistling
Ford Pier, Martin Walson—electric guitar, lap steel on "Little Wind"
Christof Migone—"donated som clicks for bloom"

Comments:

I was lucky enough to be one of the audience at the concert she recorded to make the basic tracks for this album, and the concert experience was a magical event that truly is reproduced on the album. (See my comments about this experience in the section about live performances above.) Veda writes remarkable, beautiful songs: even when they're on the experimental edge they're melodic and catchy and compel me to listen again and again. This is a lovely album best served whole but each individual part is wonderful. There's no one like Veda. (Neile)

It was recorded live on a Sunday in mid-December last year and it was solo piano. Veda played straight through for almost forty minutes and asked the audience not to applaud until the very end. It was hard to sit on our hands at such wondrous songs. She did do some studio additions (the version of "tuktoyaktuk hymn" we heard was on piano and is on organ on the disc and there are extra sounds in "birdsong"). I wouldn't call it a dramatic step forward for her. In fact it reminds me a lot of Here is a picture. It is a wonderful disk, as one would expect from Veda, though not likely to win her new fans in the pop world. Veda continues to maintain a wonderful balance between the experimental and the beautiful. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)

Overall it's a very understated album, focusing mainly on the piano. I was expecting this since I knew she had recorded the piano and vocals in live performance last December. I had heard 5 of the songs on a sampler, and honestly wasn't sure if I was looking forward to the whole thing, but with everything in context it works wonderfully. It's a beautiful piece of work. Veda continues to be a master at telling stories with her songwriting, in particularly the stories of other people ("Yukon Ho!"). Even her little stepdaughter shares a writing credit, on the relatively bombastic "Evolver".
     The liner notes are great, and come complete with footnotes. I don't like the packaging (digipak, ugh), but that's a minor thing.
     I found myself wondering as I listened to it, where on earth I would file it if I owned a record store. You don't see too many "brilliant conceptual art" sections nowadays. I would imagine it would go into a bin with Robin Holcomb and Christine Fellows, labeled "gorgeous slightly twisted piano soundscapes".
     Later: One of my top ten of the year. Veda releases an album, of course it's going to be on my list. ;) Curiously I haven't been motivated to listen to this very much, but when I do I'm blown away. The imagery she conveys in these songs is stunning. She makes you feel exactly what she was feeling and thinking during her time in the Yukon. I fear that she's never going to gain a wide audience by putting together these works of art, but they're so brilliantly done I don't want her to stop making them. (meth@smoe.org)

The latest Veda is awesome—I think it's one of the most innovative albums yet of Veda—she really shows of her piano playing with some of the most complex rhythms I've heard—plus there is a driving urgency to some of the songs that I haven't heard her do before. Definitely not a typical girl with piano album though, that is for sure. (jjhanson@att.net)

Veda was one of my important discoveries for last year, so I was eager to hear what direction she was going to take next. Although more in the mode of here is a Picture, Field Study is not so much a step back or even a step to one side, it's more of an extended ramble, combination chamber piece and lesson in natural history, in rehearsal. It's a digression, it's a doodle, a fragile folio of rough notes and pencil sketches. It's wonderful, in a dimminuendo kind of way. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

Another year, another incredible Veda album. The best album of 2001. (neal)


Auditorium

Release info:

2002—Ball of Flames Productions, Box 4763, VMPO, Vancouver, BC, Canada M6B 4A4—vh117-2

Availability:

Wide in Canada, or see website

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Veda Hille—piano, Rhodes, electric and acoustic tenor guitar, singing

Guest artists:

Martin Walton—bass and lap steel guitar
Ford Pier—electric guitar
Barry Mirochnick—drums and xylophone, electric tenor guitar on "The Ballad of Marie Sanders"
John Korsrud—trumpet, flugelhorn, musical top, horn arrangements, shouting on "Instructions"
Henry Christian—trumpet, flugelhorn, shouting on "Instructions"
Dennis Esson—trombone, shouting on "Instructions"

Produced by:

Veda Hille

Comments:

I was there in the audience for the two shows that the tracks on this disc were taken from. Both concerts were wonderful experiences, and this disc does a pretty good job of offering the concerts in one disc. It's too bad there's nothing that could possibly capture the electricity of being there! But the music here is wonderful, and the versions of favourite tracks delightful. And from the commentary and the energy of the performances and the enthusiasm of the audience, it's easy to hear how much fun everyone was having. I think of the two live discs that are available, this is the better one, and not simply because she had more material to draw from when this was produced—it simply feels more alive. (Neile)

There's a lot about this album I love: The exuberance of songs I already know and love like "INSTRUCTIONS" and "Killzone!" and of new songs "Bedlam" and "Lying." The interludes, very funny, which are such a wonderful offering into her personality. The horns on "A Peculiar Value." "Seasoned" which is stripped-down, slowed-down, and quite haunting. The version of "Tuktoyaktuk Hymn" with the crowd softly singing along is beautiful; I like it much better than the version on Field Study which I almost always skip over.
     There are a few things I don't like: "The Ballad of Marie Sanders," "Song for Snake," "With no caring" (mostly because of the horns, I think). And "Precious Heart," one of my favorite songs ever, I find fairly unrecognizable here. I hope it will grow on me.
     Over all, the album does a good job of melding the songs from her different albums and different styles. She does 4 songs from Field Study, 3 each from You Do Not Live In This World Alone and Spine, 2 from Path of a Body, and 1 each from Here Is a Picture and Silver plus 2 songs that are either previously unrecorded or from albums I don't have. It's not necessarily easy to go from "birdsong" to "Killzone!" but she does it with naturalness and ease. I've never seen Veda live in concert, but Auditorium certainly makes me want to. (JoAnn Whetsell)

When I first heard "With No Caring" with those horns, I just about fell over. It is *so* unexpected, and yet *so* wonderful...it's a complete reinterpretation of the song, and I think I might even like it better than the original. "Precious Heart" was kind of jarring, but it is growing on me. As far as going from "birdsong" to "Killzone!", this is something she does live very often. Usually there is no pause for applause like there is on the album—I wish she had clipped out the applause, and just had the one go right into the other. When I have seen her do those two songs back to back, the immediate juxtaposition knocks everyone back on their heels, and it's a beautiful thing. It's a wonderfully aggressive version of "Killzone!", too. :) Hopefully we can lure her back to the U.S., specifically the NY area, before we all die of old age. :/ (meth@smoe.org)


Silver

Release info:

2002—Ball of Flames Productions, Box 4763, VMPO, Vancouver, BC, Canada M6B 4A4—vh118-2

Availability:

Limited edition, out of print

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Veda Hille—piano, electric and acoustic tenor guitar, singing

Guest artists:

Ford Pier—electric guitar
Martin Walton—bass
Barry Mirochnick—drums and xylophone
Peggy Lee—cello
Nick Krgovitch—folk style singing
The Hasty Assembly Choir (Justin Kellam, Loree Lawrence, Bessie Wapp, Charlotte Gossen, Nellie Gossen, Stephanie Aitken, Larissa Loyva, Maggi Ness, Bethan Lewis)—singing
Frances MacDonald, Julian Gossen—random dancing

Produced by:

Veda Hille

Comments:

"Being a happy roughshod edition of the song cycle commissioned by the Vancouver Folk Music Fetstival in honour of their 25th Anniversary, July 2002."

I just absolutely love this album, and it's such a pleasure. It's the first Veda Hille album in a while that has not had to grow on me; I just loved it from the start. "You Know That Song?" is a clever amalgam of songs, many of which you will recognize. "Instructions" is redone on the theme of campground rules. "Road to Nowhere" is so joyful, I can picture a crowd singing along, and I feel like I am there with them.
     All the songs are wonderful, and they range in styles. Some like "Nostalgia Song" sound like they could have come from Here Is a Picture. "Stepdaughter's Delight" is solo piano with traditional Irish elements while "Comrades" contains some words from "Selected Jewish Songs for Members of the Armed Forces," and I hear traditional Jewish elements or influence in the music too. "Bedlam" would fit on Spine or You Do Not Live In This World Alone.
     My favorite though is "The Heart" which is built on the phrase "the heart does not pound without cause" from an Anna Akhmatova poem. Veda's chorus is "The heart does not pound without cause. Rejoice, rejoice." Isn't that beautiful? (JoAnn Whetsell)

I love it too—it's kind of funny to think of it as an "album", though, since it's basically just a quick recording of a one-off song cycle that may never be performed in the same way again. Silver was a wonderful surprise. I had no idea what to expect—all I knew is that it is what she did for the Vancouver Folk Festival this year, and that was it. Well, it's by turns brilliant and hilarious, even hilariously brilliant. The pastiche of lyrics from classic folk songs (called, I believe, "Do You Know This Song?") is great...and the revamped version of "INSTRUCTIONS", in which the "instructions" are a recitation of the rules of the Festival ("One: Pick up your trash. Two: no booze here...") is absolutely hilarious.
     Throughout the cycle she is quoting herself as well as many other traditions. In the liner notes she says she was trying to evoke the musical traditions of the world as much as she could in the limited time she had. I'm not sure if everything she was trying to do comes 100% clear, but it's still a beautiful piece of work. (meth@smoe.org)

I'm with Meth here. I had no expectations for this because it was a one-off kind of thing, but it's really lovely and fun. Veda shines again! (Neile)


Return of the Kildeer

Release info:

2005—Ape House—APECD 009

Availability:

Canada, UK, elsewhere see website

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Veda Hille—vocals, piano, organ, SK-1, tenor guitar, xylophone, vibes, Rhodes, bottles, bells, washing machine, autoharp, one drum, clock, and nest

Guest artists:

Martin Walton—bass, ukulele orchestra, jaw harp
Barry Mirochnick—drums, pots and pans, triangle, woodblocks, vocals (11)
Ford Pier—guitar, piano, jingle bells, plumber's whistle, wine glasses, Farfisa, French horn, synthesizer, string and orchestra arrangements (6, 7, 13, 15), vocals (5)
Peggy Lee—cello
AK Coope—clarinet
Joanna Schulz—French horn
Rebecca Whitling—violin
Jay Burr—tuba
David Travers-Smith—trumpet
John Millard—banjo, vocals (4)
Saoirse Soley—little tiny violin
Anita Zaenker—bicycle pump
Justin Kellam—toms and cymbals (10)
Nick Krgovich—everything (3), vocals (3)
Dan Goldman—vocals (1, 5, 17)
Larissa Loyva—vocals (3, 9, 17)
Patsy Klein—vocals (5, 7, 8, 17)
Kim Barlow—vocals (5, 11)
Suzie Ungerleider—vocals (5)
Cam Giroux—vocals (5)
Brian Travers-Smith—vocals (6, 16)
Ida Nilsen—vocals (7, 17)
Selina Martin—vocals (14, 17)
Christine Duncan—descant (17)

Produced by:

Veda Hille

Comments:

This is another odd and beautiful collection of songs. Veda has a way with artsong that makes them have all the qualities of artsong with the catchy and melodic qualities of pop. This album is a fine example of that. Here she plays with a song from the musical Hair and one from the Carl Sandburg American Songbag and makes them her own. She writes songs about living in Vancouver and loving the rain and cleaning the junkies' works from her front door. She sings about Asian tourists in the Yukon trying to conceive children under the Northern lights. It's all magic. It's all Veda's magic. I know this is an album I'll be listening to decades from now. (Neile)

It's one of my big regrets that I had to miss her gig this year, but there was nothing I could do. This album, however, is easily the best thing I've heard this year, a wonderful mix of textures and styles, all delivered with an undercurrent of humour. Everyone should have this album. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

Veda Hille's Return of the Kildeer is the first essential album of the year. I think of it as modern art songs, in many cases sonic miniatures, wonderfully rendered both on disc and at the cd release show. It's quite different from her previous work, though there are moments that seem to stretch back to spine or even path of a body. You can definitely hear the musical theater influence, and not just because 2 of the songs are from musicals. She plays with voices more, letting others sing the lead sometimes. After months and years, it's only gotten better to listen to. (JoAnn Whetsell)


This Riot Life

Release info:

2008—Ape House—APECD019

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Veda Hille—vocals, piano, organ, keyboards, tenor guitar; string arrangements for "Book of Saints"

Guest artists:

Patsy Klein—vocals, flute, glockenspiel
Martin Walkton—bass; vocals (13)
Peggy Lee—cello; string arrangements (4)
Jesse Zubot—violin; string arrangements (5)
AK Coope—clarinet, bass clarinet
Ford Pier—guitar, autoharp; vocals (13); horn arrangements (5, 13)
Skye Brooks—drums, percussion (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13); vocals (8); backing vocals
Barry Mirochnick—drums (1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10,); vocals, shaker (13); banjo uke (2)
Shaun Brodie—trumpet
Jeremy Berkman—trombone
Joanna Schulz—French horn
Sal Ferrerars—vibes, marimba, percussion (2, 8)
Ida Nilsen—vocals (1)
Maiko Bae Tamamoto—vocals (8)
Selina Martin—vocals (13)
Giorgio Magnanensi—string/wind arrangement (12)

Comments:

Just resurfacing, briefly, to announce the imminent arrival of "this riot life," Veda Hille's latest album, I was lucky enough to get a slightly advance copy of it, and got my first listen at 2 am one morning, swathed in a fevered insomnia and reading the third volume in Susan Cooper's "The Dark is Rising" sequence. All very atmospheric and fitting, as it turned out.
     In recent years, I've felt, Veda has been fusing Americana with a sort of rocked-out Kurt Weill sensibility. In this one, she puts aside the Americana and picks up....the hymnal. What we have is a collection of songs mostly constructed around the lyrics of hymns (one track, "o come on" has lyrics pieced together, mostly, from the first lines of hymns collected in one hymnal). I used the words baffling, intriguing and enchanting to describe my initial reaction to this (Veda found that amusing). As an atheist, it's hard for me to be engaged by some of the words, but there is such a wonderful, haunting, devotional tone to the whole piece that it's hard not to get carried away. The arrangements certainly help: string and brass and heart-breaking harmonies all combine to make this an incredibly tender and uplifting experience. One song, "Cowper's Folly" (based on a poem by William Cowper) is fast becoming my tune of the moment, played over and over and over just for the sheer, breathtaking beauty of it. The album also includes "lucklucky," which has already become a personal anthem of mine, and "soapland serenade," which Hille composed with Maiko Bae Yamamoto for the show Sexual Practices of the Japanese by Theatre Replacement.
     Veda once again, has delivered the unexpected (even the riot life sampler didn't prepare me for the scale of this) and it is a winner.
     Highly recommended. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

This Riot Life is brilliant. It's the first album of hers in a few years I've been utterly addicted to. (meth@smoe.org)

As always, I had my early moments of worrying that I wouldn't like this album as much as her previous efforts, but over time grew to love it more and more until it's a favourite (just don't ask me whether I like it better than any of her previous albums because I like them all best for their own different reasons).
     This album is yet more proof (as though that were needed) that Veda is one of the most creative forces out there, and one of the few artists capable of exploring new territory and yet keeping it all powerfully, hit-the-repeat-button listenable. Who thought I would love an album where a lot of the material is inspired by hymns? I would never have, would have sworn I'd hate it, yet I love this album. The first time I heard it (and I have to admit, this happens the first time I hear any of her albums) I thought, "well, she's finally lost me," but that initial impression disappeared immediately on the second listen, and turned to "wow, listen to this, and *this* and **this**".
     It is a brilliant album. Veda is amazing for how she can make a song both artsy and catchy. (Neile) I can't get enough of it! (timjy@sbcglobal.net)

I put off buying this for a long time. It hadn't hit Amazon yet, I rationalized, and besides, and besides...I suppose I had expected it to be too arty, too impenetrable, something I can admire at a distance but not quite love. In fact, it's the opposite. It even has a grenade of a pop song. There's a lot of artistry here, but at the same time, it's incredibly forceful—not that those two things are mutually exclusive by any means, but when they come together, you get amazing things. At least one reviewer has panned "Ace of the Nazarene" as "megachurchy", but if I ever ran across megachurch music with this much genuine drama and bombast, I may be convinced to reassess the whole concept. This may be the most accessible song on the album, but it isn't the one that grabbed me first. That would be "The Moon," with its dotty piano part that perfectly complements the lyrics (a poem by Shelley).
     I mentioned earlier, offhand, that Veda Hille isn't a Christian, but she does Christian music better than 90% of the musicians who are. Religion's a recurring theme in the album; several songs are covers of hymns, and even the ones which aren't tend to reference religious topics, albeit with added playfulness. "Book of Saints," for instance, begins with this somewhat flip but nevertheless dead-on accurate definition: "Lookie here, the book of saints / What they are is what you ain't." Even the secular songs are excellent. "Sleepers" is a lovely lilt of a modern love song ("I never cared much for metal hair / until the boy you were, Slayer") and "Soapland Serenade," composed for the show "Sexual Practices of the Japanese," walks a fine line between dreamlike and bleak, never quite settling on either. They, and the rest of the album, manage to be highly crafted and highly intelligent without sacrificing a bit of what makes them compelling. That's a tough feat to pull off. (lotterose @ gmail . com)

This album holds lots of surprises, and is one I love more with every listen. Veda continues to be an artist that pushes the boundaries, but in accessible and extremely musical ways. (jjhanson@att.net)


Young Saint Marie

Release info:

2011—Ape House—VH-119

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Veda Hille—piano, tenor guitar, Rhodes, voice

Guest artists:

CBC Radio Orchestra (1–6)
      Alain Trudel—principal conductor
      Brent Akins, Angela Cavadas, Lawrie Hill, Marka Wilcox, Mark Ferris, Anne Cramer, Pat Armstrong, Jeanette Singh, Rebecca Whitling, Cameron Wilson, Annette Wegiel, Evelyn Creaser, Jennie Press, Karen Gerbrecht—violin
      Neil Miskey, Andrew Brown, Stephen Wilkes, Isabelle Roland—viola
      Janet Steinberg, Dianne Berthelsdorf, Charles Inkman, Christian Marcos—cello
      David Brown, Patricia Hutter—bass
      Kathleen Rudolph, Brenda Fedoruk—flute
      Roger Cole, Karin Walsh—oboe
      Gene Ramsbottom, Mary Backun—clarinet
      Sophie Dansereau, Ingrid Chiang—bassoon
      Brian G'froerer, Steven Denroche—horn
      Larry Knopp, Henry Christian—trumpet
      Gordon Cherry—trombone
      Don Adams—timpani
      Vern Griffiths, Sal Ferreras—percussion
Giorgio Magnanensi—arrangements (1–12); conductor (7–12); stones, birds, talking teacher (7–12)
Peggy Lee—cello (7–12)
Jesse Zubot—violin (7–2)
A.K. Coope—clarinet, bass clarinet (7–12)
Christie Reside—flute (7–12)
Jeremy Berkman—trombone (7–12)
Shaun Brodie—trumpet (7–12)
Joanna Schulz—French horn (7–12)
Steve Wright—guitar (7–12)
Martin Walton—bass (7–12)
Skye Brooks—drums (7–9)
Barry Mirochnick—drums (11–12)
Sal Ferreras—vibraphone, marimba, percussion (7–12)
Patsy Klein—backing vocals (7–12)

Produced by:

Denise Ball, Matthew McFarlane (1–6)

Comments:

Much as I love Veda I hesitated to buy this album because I'm unfamiliar with Buffy Saint-Marie and not particularly keen on Neil Young. But have no fear, this is very much a Veda Hille album. Complete with orchestra and interesting arrangements that bring to mind Copland, Debussy, and other late 19th and early 20th century composers. The album is really 2 EPs back to back. The first, recorded live with the CBC Radio Orchestra, features Buffy Saint-Marie songs; the second, recorded in a studio with a band, features Neil Young songs. Both are excellent. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

Veda duetted with meryn cadell on a live Bob Snider tribute album called poetreason, released in 1996. Her spoken word track, "well i guess not", appeared on the lit from within compilation. She also contributes "bellyfish" (recorded live on 26 june 1997) to the WFUV (New York City)'s compilation, city folk live. Two duets with Robin Holcomb appear on the 2004 tribute album Poor Boy—Songs of Nick Drake.


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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