Little Volcano is both poetic and plain, encompassing all the playfulness of theatre and the pressures of existing as a contributing member of society.
Listening to Veda Hille’s Little Volcano is like opening your favourite adventure book from childhood and finding you forgot to remember how much you loved it. Little Volcano is the soundtrack to a theatrical concert experience that premiered in January 2020 with Music on Main and the PuSh Festival in Vancouver. Much of the live performance energy carries over to this collection of songs on the many varied meanings of life.
“Carnage Instructions” is a how-to guide from one to eighteen, every legal year of youth before being thrust into the adult world where you’re suddenly expected to have answers to questions about what you do. Of the many beautiful insights on this list of directions (including “run with whatever you can carry”), my favourites are, “when blinded, construct images around unknown sounds and assume you are correct,” and, “remember to surface.”
Hille moves expertly between free-flowing whimsy and reflective restraint, drawing nostalgia out of piano keys and singing her own harmonies: “I will make a record just for you, I will make it like the old days.” A childlike wonder is juxtaposed so neatly with the maturity of her findings, exposed in the craft of her lyrics, her voice bending timelessness to her will. “Prelude in D” is a tribute to Bach with a touching reflection on grounding herself in musical practice: “Losing myself in feeling connected to something that’s been around for hundreds of years. It feels akin to the natural world. Something that is just there.”
Somehow Little Volcano is both poetic and plain, encompassing all the playfulness of theatre and the pressures of existing as a contributing member of society with responsibilities: “To live isn’t pure. Things are more beautiful when they’re obscure.” Leaving most questions either half-answered or entirely open-ended, “Where am I from?” concludes: “Every chord is a silver line”. Little Volcano reminds me of why I felt inclined to music in the early stages of my own upbringing. Beneath all the technical mastery of lyricism, instrumentation, and aesthetics, there is musicality — that indescribable liveness that generations of musicians and listeners get the joy of participating in. After three consecutive listens, I still have no concept of where and when the melodies will bend, only a vague recollection that they will change in ways I wouldn’t expect — a fitting sentiment for an autobiographical work such as this.