Caroline Lavelle’s personal style of electronic music reveals a unique talent. With a refreshing combination of her full, broad voice and classically trained instrumental skill she imparts a distinctive and freespirited aura, adeptly charming audiences worldwide. Her talent is seen as a breath of fresh air on the concert stage as well as on street corners, and she performs in both venues with equal aplomb. Her ethereal chanting is compared by some to the sirens of Greek mythology or, more appropriately, to the Selkie creatures of Scottish lore. An ambient background, created largely by means of her electric cello, interspersed with melodic codas and a suddenly percussive and rhythmic style causes Lavelle’s music at times to be identified as electronica, which is inaccurate; her music simply makes use of an electric cello.
Lavelle was born on May 8, 1964, in London, England, to William and Pamela (Adkins) Lavelle. Caroline Lavelle and her siblings, Stephen and Diana, grew up in England’s West Country, where they raised goats and otherwise enjoyed the beauty of the countryside. The Lavelle children indulged in such pastimes as horseback riding and developed a love of animals. Their father is an engineer, and their mother, an Irishwoman, is a teacher and historian; their grandfather, a concert symphony conductor, was a colleague of the English composer Sir Edward Elgar. Lavelle was introduced to the cello when she began to play with her school orchestra in the first grade. Even as a small child, she played on a full-sized instrument. Although she never cared for school, she continued her studies until age 15. She then left home to attend the Royal College of Music, where she studied with Christopher Bunting.
Lavelle began her musical career as a session musician. Her work can be heard on a variety of recordings by prominent alternative musicians including Modern English, Ultra Vivid Scene, the Cranberries, the Waterboys, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Pale Saints. Likewise she has backed up Peter Gabriel and was heard on his album Us in 1992. Additionally, for eight years prior to the release of her debut album, Lavelle contributed cello background to recordings by many of her colleagues, beginning with Mary Black’s By the Time It Gets Dark in 1987 and No Frontiers in 1989. In 1987 Lavelle worked on De Danann’s Ballroom, contributing vocal harmony in addition to instrumental background. Del Amitri’s 1989 album Waking Hours features Lavelle on cello, as does Died Pretty’s Trace and Ashkhabad’s City of Love, both released in 1993. Also in 1993, Lavelle’s cello accompaniment was heard on Heidi Berry’s self-titled album, and in the previous year Lavelle received a guest credit with Massive Attack on a self-titled extended play disc.
William Orbit is generally credited as the first producer of prominence to appreciate the scope and breadth of Lavelle’s talent. He undertook the production of her first album, Spirit, on his N-Gram label in 1995 and contributed some instrumental background to the recording as well. Spirit was later released in the United States on Warner Bros.’ Discovery label, and a third version appeared in Japan. Lavelle wrote or cowrote ten of the album’s eleven songs, and she collaborated with Orbit in the production of several tracks. The album’s “Moorlough Shore” was released by N-Gram as a single. In a review of Lavelle’s debut recording, Mike Alexander in New Zealand’s Dominion applauded the singer/cellist as an “invigorating vocalist” and defined as “compelling” her rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.”
Her reputation was firmly cemented with the release of Spirit, which featured violinist Nigel Kennedy, with whom Lavelle also toured. Soon afterward she contributed instrumental accompaniment to Expecting to Fly by the Bluetones as well as Afro Celt Sound System’s Sound Magic, Volume 1, both in 1996; likewise she was heard with Kennedy on Kafka that year and on Bends by Radiohead. Lavelle contributed vocal support to the Athens Opera Company on a recorded work by Evangelos “Vangelis” Papathanassiou called Voices. She contributed both vocal and cello support on the Connells’ One Simple Word in 1998, and she contributed to another Mary Black album, Song for Ireland, in 1999. She participated in a Muse album, Origin of Symmetry, which was released in 2001.
The music of Caroline Lavelle, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Richard Cromelin, emotes a “powerful moodiness,” what Lavelle herself described to Cromelin
Born on May 8, 1964, in London, England; daughter of William (an engineer) and Pamela (Adkins) Lavelle (a teacher and historian). Education: Attended the Royal College of Music, London, England.
Worked largely as a street musician during early career; session musician for Modern English, Peter Gabriel, the Cranberries, and others, 1980s-early 1990s; released debut solo album, Spirit, 1995; released Brilliant Midnight, 2001.
Addresses: Management —Ardent Music, phone: +44 (0)207 435 7706, e-mail: [email protected] Business— P.O. Box 20078, London, NW2 3FA, England, e-mail: [email protected] Website —Caroline Lavelle Official Website: http://www.carolinelavelle.com.
as “… sort of a spiritual quality, kind of a lost soul out in the wilderness vibe.” She is heard with Loreena McKennitt on The Book of Secrets and remains a nature girl in every respect, even performing barefoot with her long hair flowing, playing an airy and delicate electric instrument that is carved from blonde wood. Lavelle’s music was heard regularly on the CBS crime drama, EZ Streets, in the mid-1990s. In 1999 she appeared in concert with the Indigo Girls.
In late spring of 2001 Lavelle released a second album, Brilliant Midnight. She collaborated on four of the fourteen tracks on that recording and composed the remaining ten independently. She completed a promotional tour in Mexico in conjunction with the release of that album, and her schedule that year encompassed also a summertime trip to the south of France, where she finds artistic inspiration in the pastoral environment.
During the mid-1980s, Lavelle abandoned the urban environment of London for a residence at the top of an English hill, where she finds big skies and countryside, both of which clearly provide inspiration. Her lyrics, which bring enchanted images to mind—of light, dark, and mangoes, of dreams, Picasso, and rain—are as earthy as her down-to-earth self. She maintains an ardent fondness for nature, especially for the various farm animals that she keeps on her property; she breeds endangered butterflies and is fascinated by the night sky. Apart from her music and nature she finds time for little else, though she professes a fascination for archaeology and attributes that interest to her mother’s love of teaching and history.
Spirit, N-Gram/Discovery, 1995.
Brilliant Midnight, Elektra/Asylum, 2001.
Dominion (New Zealand), October 21, 1995; March 16, 1996.
Los Angeles Times, February 23, 1996, p. 18.
“Caroline Lavelle,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (December 27, 2001).
“Caroline Lavelle’s Celtic Myth and Magic,” Muse, http://www.musemagazine.com/caroline.htm (December 5, 2001).
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