Rio En Medio’s second album gets more critical kudos

Rio en Medio is composed of songwriter/producer Danielle Stech-Homsy and a continuously evolving cast of friends and guest artists. Aligning herself with visual art, film and literature as much as music, Danielle’s primary influences are the textures, sounds and patterns found in nature, the human voice, the sacred, childhood, dreams, language, chance and divination.

Danielle’s new album, Frontier, (Manimal Vinyl) was written and recorded at home in the wintery isolation of Northern New Mexico, where Danielle now resides. Written first as a series of interrelated poems, then later set to music, the album unfolds as a sort of constellation of tales, inviting a narrative reading but perhaps without all the lines drawn in. What results is a wildly imaginative journey into the cosmos, where concepts are reduced to light and matter and Mystery. Lifting the mythology of space exploration and the conquering of the wild, western forests, and aided by Danielle’s intricate collage style and a remarkable host of synthesizers, the featured instrument is still Danielle’s crystalline voice and the careful way she uses it to serve the magic of the song. To date this has gotten some wonderful press, a sampling of which I include below:


This feels like a weather system blown in from another dimension, full of elemental charge and primordial jitter, an anxious haze settling upon one like fog. There’s also the snap ‘n’ crackle of unrestricted modernity to Rio en Medio’s sophomore release, Frontier (Manimal Vinyl). If her debut (here) felt out of time, this follow-up seems slightly ahead of the curve. While there are shivery echoes of Cocteau Twins, Bjork, Byrne/Eno and other quality strangers in her DNA, Rio en Medio is her own thang, blurring lines like a charcoal artist, the smudges and haze as important as the obvious outlines. A few spots, notably “The Diamond Wall,” have the orchestral ache of Górecki ; a bigger compliment I cannot offer. Frontier largely ditches the folksy elements of her first album and embraces an oceanic, neon flecked hurdy-gurdy approach. This could be the music box score for some alien race or a beloved artifact of a god. There’s something vaguely un-mortal about her soundscapes, which leaves us with the lingering taste of ambrosia, forbidden fruit. Elusive and unsettling, Frontiers is another wholly unique salvo from this brave new artist. Dennis Cook/ 12/28

The new record from RIO EN MEDIO (Danielle Stech-Homsy), Frontiers (Manimal Vinyl) brings more of the eerie folktronica evident on last year’s Bride of Dynamite. The emphasis on atmosphere is upped and this results in some striking moments. “Venus of Willendorf” is a spacey trip. Vocals and laptopped instrumentation/noise weightlessly float through its nearly eight minutes. On the title track, Stech-Homsy

sets her inner nature-child in a Laurie Anderson landscape. “The Diamond Wall” manages to sequence orchestral sweep, glitch and backtracked vocals into an odd homage to Kate Bush’s “The Ninth Wave.” Michael Meade/Skyscraper Winter 08

Rio En Medio’s Danielle Stech-Homsy has one of pop music’s most wispy and delicate voices, a thread of melody that slips into and under gossamer textures of guitar, synthetic blips and field recordings. Her first album, TheBride of Dynamite in 2007, set her ethereal template, with dreamlike lyrics wrapped in crinkled tissue layers of sound. With Frontier, she has turned a shade more electronic, a bit less faerie-magic folky, with the blurts and wheeze of synthesizer percolating under clear currents of song.

This second album was recorded mostly in Stech-Homsy’s northern New Mexico home, with the singer herself doing programming, and playing an array of synthesizers, a ukulele, harmonium and percussion. She was joined, on occasion, by other players, most notably Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear. He produced “Ferris” in his Brooklyn studio, and added flute and clarinet to its unearthly atmospherics.

Yet even so, the album has an aura of deep solitude, of daydreams made substantial through long periods of alone-ness, of fragile radio transmissions that hint at a living world somewhere. Bride of Dynamite’s “Liberté,” with its long, mysterious samples, prefigures her fascination with altered real-world sounds. “The Last Child’s Tear” opens with birdsong that unexpectedly changes into space-age whirrs and gurgles; these unlooked for embellishments remain even as the water-pure, folk-simple melody begins, adding a strange sheen of science to it.

The disc’s longest song is also its most experimental, the first-side closer “Venus of Willendorf,” based on a 13th century poem. Yet though it highlights Stech-Homsy’s restless intelligence, her willingness to subvert beauty, her preference for atmosphere over structure, the song sags over its long featureless duration. There is just not enough architecture in the song to support it, and it collapses into a series of mildly interesting, synthetically derived sounds. Far better, if less ambitious, are songs like “Frontier,” “Heartless” and “Ferris,” which turn soft folk into eerie dreamscapes, without losing the thread of meaning. Jen Kelly/ 12/4

“I’m really behind on the whole iPod and iTunes thing. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot obscure records that I buy for a dollar at thrift shops,” says Danielle Stech-Homsy a.k.a. Rio En Medio. Like her record collection her own musical style is impossible to label; she has a knack for creating stunning works of art by piecing together the unexpected. Her sophomore release Frontier, evokes both a Himalayan folk band and a Parisian lounge, as Stech-Homsy’s angelic voice floats over her ukulele, and the experimental sound of a synthesizer. Her stream-of-conscious poetry and sound bytes bridge one song to the next, giving the album the feel of a million different places stretched across one great plain. “The laughter on the CD comes from a recording I made of my students laughing when I taught English in Brooklyn. And I recorded the sound of birds chirping in my bedroom window in California.” explains Stech-Homsy. With plans to move to San Francisco, she looks forward to combining her music with her artwork: “I’m going to do performances in the same place that my little structures [made from found objects] are displayed. I want to create the essence of another world.” Heather Simon/ 11/21

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