CD: Timeless
Artist: Jami Sieber

Timeless“Even when you don’t think it’s a cello, it probably is…” This enigmatic quote about the music of electric cellist, vocalist, and composer Jami Sieber, refers to her “taking a traditionally classical instrument and morphing it into the source of a multi-dimensional range of expressive works.” Utilizing electronics and looping devices, she weaves sonic tapestries that transcend the expectations one has when they think of the cello. Jami’s music is deeply influenced by her spiritual consciousness, which encompasses the environment, social justice, and the healing arts. In fact her latest album, Timeless, began with the intention to create a sound track for healers and healing.  She sees the arts as “a medium of exploration and awareness of the interconnectedness of all beings.” Timeless is Jami’s sixth independent album since she started recording as a solo artist in 1994. Her musical history goes back much further, however. At the tender age of seven, she began to study cello in a classical context and went on to play in the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony in Minneapolis. After moving to Seattle in 1977, Jami spent five years in a folk duo and later was part of a progressive rock band, before becoming a solo artist. In addition to her own albums, Jami’s music has been featured in film, theatre, dance, and even video games.


The music of Timeless has been described in this way: “Layer upon layer of cello transport the listener into a world without clocks or calendars, where stress and striving dissolve, the heart melts open, and the walls that separate us from each other, nature, and our own self-love magically crumble.” I know that in my own work as a music journalist and recording artist, there is nothing better than being so in the Timeless altarflow of what I am doing that when I eventually look at the clock I see that hours have gone by without realizing it. This, I believe, is the state that Jami is referencing with the title of her album. In her words: “The essence of a timeless nature exists within each of us. I love going there. When I am not caught up in the ‘to do, did do, and will do,’ I fall into the gap – when a minute lasts a year and there is nothing but that moment.” In a poem of hers called “Samadhi,” she asks:

“Can I feel the moments in between?

Can I feel the silence within the song?”


The album opens with an appropriately titled track called “The Invitation.” The long low drone of the cello strings indeed portrays a sense of timelessness, and as the title implies, it gently invites you into the lush sonic realm of Jami Sieber. As layers of cello were added, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t listening to a synthesizer soundscape. On the next track, “A Love Song For Humanity,” I couldn’t help being moved by the emotional undercurrents that this music generated. My experience was eloquently phrased by noted music reviewer Lloyd Barde when he wrote: “In Jami Sieber’s hands, the cello, perhaps the most soulful of all instruments, becomes a statement for longing and freedom, for unbridled expression, and a prayer to tenderness that encompasses every emotion.” On a track called “River Of Sky,” the plucked arpeggios that begin the piece are a nice contrast to the expansive bowed pieces that preceded it. As melody lines intertwined over them I was aware of how the song blended a feeling of both sweetness and sorrow at the same time. It’s hard to define in words, but easy to drift downstream with.


Jami SieberWhile Jami is the primary instrumentalist on the recording, there are a number of guest performances, including the sampled loops and synthesizers of Evan Schiller that add exotic atmospheric textures on a track called “Dancing With Tinkerbell.” There are even non-human guests, such as a recording of pond frogs in their natural habitat on “Jewels in Indra’s Web.” The sound of the kora, a harp from West Africa, played by Kane Mathis, adds melody and motion to track 7, which also features Jami’s Enya-like ethereal multi-tracked vocals. I have to slightly amend the opening quote of this article where it was said: “Even when you don’t think it’s a cello, it probably is…” On track 8, “Dream Raga,” the sounds of Hans Teuber’s soprano sax and pocket trumpet blend so integrally with sound of Jami’s cello that I had to go back and listen again to distinguish which was which. I enjoyed the yin-yang counterpoint on “River of Rain,” which soars before dropping down into a meditative section in the middle with Jami playing bell-like harmonics. While these are common on guitar, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard harmonics played on a cello. The technique and technology  heard  on Timeless reflects a level of innovation that is rare on this instrument.


One of the album’s most rhythmic tracks, “A World Behind The World” was also one of my favorites. Jami’s looped arpeggios provide propulsion and momentum for layers of cello, dreamy vocals, and the piano of Melanie Monsour to glide gracefully over. The album draws to a serene conclusion with the haunting ambience of “Begin Again,” which echoes the elegant expansive quality heard throughout the recording. With this latest release, Jami Sieber has magnificently achieved her goal of composing music that transcends temporality. Not only is a sense of timelessness so exquisitely evoked, but the emotional resonance of the music is breathtaking. I can’t imagine listening to this album and not being deeply moved.