by carl wilson

And the Signifieds Butt Heads With the Signifiers

Continuing the Newsom-iotic vector: Sean's point about harp-as-banjo is a good illustration of the maskwork involved. Here's another: Instead of the 1960s, think of the 1970s, of the Kitchen, of Meredith Monk and Philip Glass. [...]

There's a great tension in the sounds of her harp and her harpsichord, between lushness and austerity; her structures have much more to do with Glass/Reich/Riley-like minimalist looping than with misty Irish mountain turf, and her voice's idiomatic wiggle against those mathematical riffs draws more on 1980s post-punk (Raincoats, say, or for a very direct echo, Cyndi Lauper) than on the choral-folk strains of Donovan or Nick Drake or Sandy Dennis. Sure, Dylan is a necessary predecessor due to the way he gave pop musicians license to employ their "own" un-pop voices, but by now surely we can take that as read. (To call her a Dylan revivalist would be mad.)

This scheme - loose naturalism disciplined and punished by mekanik processes - is closer to the trance-quadratics of Kraut Rock, Stereolab and the Kranky likes of Charlambides than to most of the psych-folkists, and I think it forms a symmetric whole with the soft-surface-hard-core game that's afoot on most of The Milk-Eyed Mender. (It does however fall apart on the songs with piano, where she has no strategy against more generic and unpersuasive country and folk cliches.)

To tweak Matos a little further I'd even say that you can hear a little electro-fied Prince in her, the harp-machine sparring with idiosyncratic vocalese (Prince needed Dylan too) as on (dare I say?) Sign o' the Times; and Matos's quip (if it was a quip?) about Newsom covering 50 Cent sent me off imagining the songs redone as contemporary R&B.; I'd say that on about half the songs there was enough groove and translatable beat-structure to make it possible - especially on Sadie, where I could really hear a breathy, trace-gospel-memory diva version of "And all that I want/ And all that I need/ And all that I've got/ Is scattered like seed/ And all that I know/ Is moving away from me/ And all that I know is blowing like tumbleweed." (But who? Maybe Sade could be coaxed out to do it, given the title...) The fact that her influences are avowedly African means more to the rhythmatic aspect than ever gets duly credited.

None of which will of course persuade committed haters. But as entry to a re-hearing - a rescue from the "oh, she's a cute little elf" fans - it's a step.

Read More | The Writ | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, January 05 at 2:34 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)

 

COMMENTS

not a quip, an observation. see also Cat Power (whose music I also don't like) karaoke'ing "The Real Slim Shady" to rather nice effect.

Posted by Matos W.K. on January 5, 2005 2:01 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson