Song is a powerful tool for relating human experience, regardless of the genre. With Love and Fury is a new selection of Australian songs, conceived by popular songstress Katie Noonan, which brings together a most eclectic bunch of musical minds: a ‘jazz’ singer-songwriter, a ‘classical’ string quartet and a diverse catalogue of Australian composers. All the artists involved are friends of creative crossover, and here they’re all engaged in reinterpreting the work of the great Australian poet, environmentalist and Aboriginal rights campaigner, Judith Wright.

With Love and Fury is a voyage in poetry and music – and a gorgeous one at that. It’s hard not to be bewitched by Katie Noonan’s singing. Her lyrical, pure voice soars across the album with a pristine perfection, and is reason enough to buy the CD. The London-based Brodsky Quartet is also a solid presence throughout, serving as more than mere accompaniment to the vocal line. The quartet’s approach to tone colour is a particularly attractive feature of the disc, and serves to evoke the atmosphere created by each composer.

Paul Grabowsky is a long-time collaborator with Noonan, and sets his beautiful vocal melodies amongst a sea of curious string effects. A number of composers economise on the elegantly simple and pure quality of Noonan’s voice, delivering beautiful vocal lines buoyed up on lush harmonies and melodies in the quartet – Elena Kats-Chernin’s Late Spring, David Hirschfelder’s To a Child, Carl Vine’s The Slope and Noonan’s own The Surfer are great examples.

But there’s plenty of darkness in this album too. Iain Grandage quotes Schubert’s artsong-turned-string quartet Death and the Maiden in his haunting response to Night After Bushfire. Paul Dean sends Noonan into the vocal stratosphere with the chilling Sonnet for Christmas, and Andrew Ford’s After the Visitors darts and tumbles with an anxious energy. The cycle also features fascinating electronic transformations, in John Rodger’s Failure of Communication and violinist-composer Richard Tognetti’s Metho Drinker.

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