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"Songs for 'Three Days'"


Kaitlyn ni Donovan - Songs for 'Three Days'
K.N.Donovan is plagued (or blessed) by a doppelganger. The artist's strength is her ability to drift, letting her songs meet the ethereal, while simultaneously revolving genres for inspiration. The effect is often arresting, but an unlikely tension cross-currents even the gentlest, least engaging moments of Three Days. Intentionally or not (and I'm betting it's purposefully done), she asserts a darker persona, an element of unrest, that works against her softer side. Thus, lush string ensembles take on a haunted quality, carnivalesque moments of fear invade song structures otherwise somber or foreboding. Like me, some will find this complexity to be the music's driving force, while others will simply revel in the beauty of Donovan's songs. Either way, Three Days is a pretty sure bet. -GREG WEEKS - The Big Takeover


"NW Interview: Kaitlyn ni Donovan Girl, Interrupted"

By John Chandler

While it is certainly true that the expression "When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me" is so old that it has sprouted gray whiskers and receives a monthly Social Security check, time has not succeeded in rendering this phrase entirely obsolete. Take, for example, the case of Portland singer/multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Kaitlyn ni Donovan. Over the last half-dozen years, she has appeared in public as a solo performer, leader and singer of at least two large, esoteric rock groups, as a member of a psychedelic band and as part of a small string ensemble dedicated to Slavic folk music. Naturally, I assumed that Ms. ni Donovan was of a restless nature, easily bored and always eager to seek new musical challenges. At the very least she had to have a short attention span. "Actually I just went along with what everyone else [in my bands] wanted to do," she admits somewhat sheepishly. "I always worry about the other musicians playing with me, if they're really happy or not.... I'm one of those people who wants to make everybody happy all the time and I don't want to make waves. At the very core is me. When I bring in a lot of other musicians, it becomes more about them.

"All the times I've played out under my name, I didn't associate it with me," she continues. "It was like a no ego sense. Now, after all these years, I've finally stopped worrying about other people and I'm starting to write for me. I've figured out that writing music is the one solely selfish thing I can do for myself."

Right at the tail end of '99, Kaitlyn ni Donovan's very first CD showed up at my office, and in the interim months, it hasn't strayed very far from the Discman. Songs for Three Days (Hush Records), masterfully and meticulously produced by Tony Lash, is easily one of the best local releases to come out in the last several years. The painstaking in-strumental and vocal arrangements, ex-pressive playing from a number of area notables (Lash, Eric Matthews and Sunset Valley's Jonathan Drews and Eric Furlong, among others) and finally ni Donovan's effortless stylistic grace with everything from exquisitely yearning, orchestral pop ("Ceiling Tiles," "Awake in the Sand") to playful samba ("Yves Montand") make her debut essential listening as well as a stunning sonic achievement, miles above the tentative efforts that characterize most rookie creations. "It took a lot of time and Tony really poured himself into it," ni Donovan says of her record. "It was never meant to be like a typical 'pop' album. More like a film soundtrack or a piece of classical music."

Songs for Three Days is so thick with seductive sounds and curious imagery that it deserves deep, detailed analysis, though as ni Donovan laments, there is no lyric sheet included, requiring the listener to be a little more diligent. "[The album is] long and I think you have to be patient with it," she explains. "We thought it might be difficult listening, even though there's lots of pretty stuff on it.

"I really wished I could have had lyric sheets. I'm really proud of the lyrics, even though some people have told me that they don't really want to know what the lyrics are.... They're perfectly happy to just make up their own. They put their own personal ideas into the song, which I think is pretty cool. Still, I see so many singers who have lyric sheets and I really wonder why, since it's just cliche after cliche."

After a few serious listens to Songs for Three Days, no one will be able to accuse Kaitlyn ni Donovan of attempting to foist anything resembling cliche on them. Her somewhat intense vocabulary will have people scrambling for their dictionaries searching for the definitions of words like "Sheol" ("A place in the depths of the earth conceived of as the home of the dead") and "Acajou" ("Mahogany, especially as used in French cabinet making"), while songs like "Yves Montand," "Miss Dorian Grey the Starling" and "Ma Satie & Me" are liberally peppered with references to actors, literary characters, composers, painters and other historical and cultural figures. "Those people are very real to me," ni Donovan says. "During various low points in my life, things like movies, books, art, dance, classical music, whatever, really saved me and took me to another place, and that place was better than where I was."

Fortunately for us, Kaitlyn ni Donovan is here right now and busier than ever. She's working with a newer, smaller group as well as playing guitar and singing with the Portland psych-rock band High Violets, who recently released an excellent six-song EP. ("I love playing with the High Violets," she says. "It gives me a chance to just melt into the background and jam.") But as for the present, more practical matters dominate her agenda. "Tonight, I have to do a solo show," ni Donovan says in mock panic. "I haven't done a solo show in so long. I need to rehearse with myself." - The Rocket


"Music Fest review"


Kaitlin ni Donovan (Jasmine Tree)--The world's best-kept secret. Beautiful songwriting, poetic lyrics, and a voice like a dove in flight. Can't go wrong here. JS - The Portland Mercury


"editors review"

Portland's Kaitlyn Ni Donovan first draws the listener in with her sinuous violin playing, then kills them with kindness using her breathy, pitch-perfect voice. Musically she begs the question, What if Portishead's Beth Gibbons hailed from the Pacific Northwest? Slightly jazzy and utterly delicate, your new favorite singer has arrived. - Download.com


"Fest North West"

Portland's Kaitlyn ni Donovan is an alphabets worth of atmospheric descriptions:
A is for airy, B is for Bush - comma- Kate, C is for Cocteau Twins, D is for dreamy, E is for ethereal, etc.

Whether she's playing solo with acoustic guitar and violin or backed by a band providing quirky arrangements, the highlight of the performance is always Donovan's substantial yet wispery voice, which floats across the floor to your waiting ears, slicing a spectrum of tones. If the songs weren't so unique in their melodies and chord progressions, that voice might just take off one day and never return, like a butterfly free to loop and twist through a clear sky, untouched by gravity of daily life.
(JG) - Willamette Week


"Close up"

" Kaitlyn ni Donovan is gifted.
Very few musicians in this world are conferred of the inherent largess of euphony to which she has been granted.
Listen to the movements of her chord progressions. Nearly any tune is possible over the chord abstractions she invents. But she displayes the unerring penchant to derive memorable---unforgetable, melodies out of thin air. This is a gift she shares with Mozart and Charlie parker and Elizabeth Frazier. Gold that belongs to but a few."

S. P. Clarke - Two Louies


"IN MUSIC WE TRUST"


Kaitlyn Ni Donovan
Songs for 'Three Days' ( Hush Records )
By: Alex Steininger
Songs for 'Three Days' is a quiet, sparse album that is centered around Kaitlyn Ni Donovan's angelic voice. Like the music, her voice is sparse and spread out, using space, time, and air to elaborate and fill in what she is trying to accomplish. With an airy lo-fi quality to it, the blossoming pop music she creates is that much more significant, leaving you with feelings of possibilities and hope.
The light acoustic guitars float through the songs, giving her voice room to strut or ponder, while the rhythm section falls like little rain drops on the music, taking enough space to make an impact, but leaving enough room for her voice to take front stage. This is a lo-fi, singer-songwriter pop album that goes beyond the two categories, creating something new by blending the two. I'll give it an A-. - IN MUSIC WE TRUST


"Ni Donovan's Delicate Downer"


Ni Donovan's Delicate Downer

The Portlander's first CD mines a thornier side of her music

Regardless of which side you may fall on the CD vs. vinyl LP debate, there's something about those little silicon-and-plastic wafers that suggests permanence. Record albums will skip and collect fuzz after a few spins and cassette tapes fade a bit with every playing, but a laser light reading binary code is forever, an offering for the ages.

Portland singer Kaitlyn Ni Donovan is, after six years of playing music around town, just getting around to putting her first one out. "It was like 'Everyone has a Tonka Truck but me,' " she says with a giggle. "So now it's finally my turn. After two years of working in four different studios, I'm finished. Here it is!" The "it" in question is "Songs for 'Three Days,' " Ni Donovan's debut full-length release, out now on Portland's Hush Records.

Ethereal and airy, the CD showcases Ni Donovan's lilting songbird of a voice against varying musical moods, with elements of Celtic folk, tinges of classical music and jazz accents all churning together. The title is meant to suggest "the title of a play, or maybe a movie soundtrack, with a number of different feelings but a cohesive overall tone," Ni Donovan says.

Strictly speaking, if "Three Days" was background music for a film, that particular movie would not have a happy ending. Heavy on cello, accordion, fluegelhorn and other nonpop-oriented instruments (Ni Donovan plays nearly anything with strings), the CD walks on the thornier side of the garden; while lush and sensual, it's still a bit of a delicate downer in some sections.

"Some of these songs date back as far as '94, and parts of the CD are pretty dark," she says. "Most of these songs were written as a way for me to escape the world, to retreat into dreamland. It's not the kind of record you're going to put on at a party and just crank it up. Its more of a 'stay in bed, be quiet and read a book' kind of album." As producer and drummer Tony Lash put it: "This isn't the sort of record that leaps out at you. It's supposed to lead you down a winding road.

When you're working on something this intimate sounding for so long, it can be hard to know if you've really achieved that feel. That's the challenge. And after two years and the guest contributions of notable Portland players such as bass player Eric Furlong (44 Long, Sunset Valley), and Gresham's own Herb Alpert/Burt Bacharach hybrid, Eric Matthews, "Three Days" sounds like a project that took its own sweet time coming into fruition. It's seamless without slickness. Languid and smoky, the opening cut "Aegis" sets the stage for the rest of the disc -- swirling textures and melodies, with Ni Donovan's pipes seeming to mouth phrases instead of singing specific, concrete lyrics. "I'm proud of my lyrics," she says, "but the music always shapes the feeling. People can take those words to places of their own."

The winding road of the album takes us to forbidding, sterile places ("Fear of a White Bed"), moody chamber arrangement chambers ("Fathoms") and even a snappy sidetrip to Rio on the samba-inspired number, "Yves Montand." For Ni Donovan, Friday's CD release marks letting go of not just the CD but also of some of the complicated emotional states thatinspired the material. "There's not a lot of hope on this album," she says. "I feel a little sad for anyone who can relate to it the way I did when I wrote the songs. I'm glad I'm not in that place anymore."


By Curt Schultz, of The Oregonian staff - The Oregonian


"music gem's"


"Her singing is peerlessly elegant, smoky without torch singer cliche' and melodic without melting into watery soccer-mom pop. She flavors her songwriting with hints of jazz, loungey cabaret and indie rock, handling it all with total confidence. Ni Donovan is one of Portland music's gems." - Zach Dundas, Willamette Week , - WILLAMETTE WEEK:


"Songs for 3"

This is an absolutely stunning album. Its principal achievement, I feel, is the way in which it very insinuatingly and gracefully creates a kind of total atmosphere of sound, and how that atmosphere comes to envelop you, and suggest moods. The music reminds me very much of a Diane Arbus photograph, for instance. Both gorgeous and eerie--eerily gorgeous--at the same time. There is something deeply sad about it, but the sadness becomes liberating and even reassuring. I can't listen to it enough.
William T. Schultz - Amazon


Discography

Kaitlyn ni Donovan "Songs for 'Three Days'"
Kaitlyn ni Donovan "Dinner with Bosch"
Kaitlyn ni Donovan "Cannible Spirit"

The High Violets "To Where You Are"
The High Violets "44 Down"
The High Violets "Dream Away"

Featured on:
Parks and Recreation "What was she doing on the shore that night?"
Amoree Lovell "Six Sadistic Songs for Children"
NW Shoegazers Comp 1, 2 and 3.
"Mile" a Hush Records primer
"Mute" Hush Records
"Flag" Hush Records
Various Artists "READ: Interpreting Björk"
thebrotheregg "Aortic mor"
Blanket Music "Nice"
Fancie "A Negative Capability"
Various Artists "Mute"
The State Flowers "Third of July"
Various Artists "Flag"
Various Artists "Mass"
King Black Acid "Loves a Long Song"
Sugarboom " The Liars Circus"
Corrina Repp "Home"
Oblivian Seekers " snake eyes"
The Church of Northwest Music " Volume 1"
New Weave Records "Time Code"
DB Cooper "The Awful Dr. Orloff"
Disk Makers "NorthWest's Heavy Hitters"
Monde la Bella "exquisite corpse"
Mesmer "mesmer"
Gecko Munks "Fear and Shelter"

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Label:
Hush Records
po box 12713 portland, oregon 97212
Contact: Chad Crouch chad@hushrecords.com

Kaitlyn ni Donovan's I s o l a d e

Over the course of her career Kaitlyn ni Donovan has garnered the respect and awe of musicians and listeners, both in Portland and elsewhere, for her striking compositions and noir-ish lyrics.

She also composes and performs on numerous stringed instruments including violin, viola, guitar, mandolin, and ukelele.

Kaitlyn and her collaborating musicians ( under the band name I S O L A D E ) craft a striking blend of elements from a genre that might be described as "pop noir" or "chamber pop". Tense, brooding, sensual, experimental, intensely melodic. These are all adjectives that have come up more than once in discussions about her very personal sound. On her last album, Songs for 'Three Days' on HUSH Records, Kaitlyn found her perfect foil in producer Tony Lash. Tony has produced albums by The Dandy Warhols, Richard Davies, Tahiti 80, and Sunset Valley. His attention to detail, nuance, and aesthetics helped this relatively soft album make a huge noise.