is the simple moniker of the more extravagantly named Alessi Laurent-Marke, who at the still-tender age of 20 has just released her second album, titled Time Travel
. The record cover showing an old ice cream van is pure English seaside nostalgia and sets up the listener for a trip back to a kind of imagined golden age. That mood is sustained throughout the record as Alessi’s Ark casts a beguiling spell through her softly intimate music.
Comparisons with Laura Marling may be inevitable if a little unfair. Laurent-Marke hasn’t reached the level of maturity Marling revealed on I Speak Because I Can and retains an innocence and quite different vulnerability, closer to the work of Kate Walsh. She draws inspiration from traveling and touring to create a gently melodic sketchbook. Indeed, on “Kind Of Man” and “The Bird Song” she could almost be Walsh in her early years, while “Stalemate” has the breathy swoops and slurs of an equally youthful Kate Bush. What distinguishes Laurent-Marke’s style, though, is the subtle continental inflections in her voice, which add sultriness and help to modify the twee, little-girl-in-dream-land tones.
She saves her most confident delivery for “Maybe I Know”, a cover of Lesley Gore’s mid ’60s hit, reviving feelings of pure teenage angst disguised as pop. It seems an odd choice in among the more wistful self-penned musings but works because it is simply sung from the heart. Elsewhere, Laurent-Marke alternates between moments of joy and darker reflections, while the understated production allows space for the essential charm of her voice to prevail.
The 12 songs themselves are mostly brief in the telling, and this stops the album from hitting the heights you might have hoped for. Several would have benefited from more exploration, but the overall effect is redeemed by thoughtful arrangements and unexpected instrumental bursts. The Belle & Sebastian-like horn break on “Wire”, echoes of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” at the end of “The Robot”, and the rock guitar outro on “Must’ve Grown” come to mind here. Time Travel has some stellar moments but is not quite the album to make a star of Alessi’s Ark. The singer has time on her hands for that to happen, and happen it surely will.