It’s fair to say that I’m rather serving my own interests, too. Like most people, I do like to wax lyrical about the things I’m passionate about. As is obvious, one of those things is music, so I’m going to talk a little about a few artists there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of, but are more than worth the time to take a listen to (in my wholly subjective opinion). In this post, I’ve featured a few artists that I believe if you like one, there’s a good chance you’ll like the others. I issue that with a grain of salt – it’s not an absolute, obviously. If I make similar posts in the future, I’ll continue to pick artists with the same intention. Oh, and I’m not going to delve into respective biographies, either, just describe the music as best I can.
I feel compelled to start with an Australian artist (funny, that). Occasionally compared to artists such as Portishead and Goldfrapp, it’s a comparison that is only fair in the sense that there are elements to Inga’s music that come from the same genre those artists commonly fall into. She has released four albums to date, but my pick of the bunch is the sublime album Elk. I fell in love with it on first listen, which is considerably an easy thing to do when the album itself is full to overflowing with themes of love and constant desire. Overlaying dreamy, ambient electronic, jazzy sounds with truly poetic lyrics that speak of “unspeakable” things, and delivering it all with a unique, husky voice, makes for a deeply intimate album of rare and stunning beauty. We’re taken on a journey through icy landscapes, warmed with images of skin against skin and feel helpless to the irresistable pull of a desire that is utterly tangible. It all sounds rather voyeuristic, doesn’t it? The amazing thing is, this album never makes you feel like a peeping tom, it’s so immersive that the experience becomes your own and all you want to do is share it with someone else.
Black Mountain members Amber Webber and Joshua Wells released this little gem in 2007. Lightning Dust takes elements of the waltz, country music and carnival-esqe themes to create something that almost defies comparison. Imagine giving Mazzy Star a few hits of a psychedelic drug, whereupon they suddenly become circus performers, and you might have some idea of the sound you’re likely to wind up with. That’s not to say Lightning Dust is ‘freaky’, or frenetic, the album maintains quite a relaxed, though haunting, atmosphere. Instrumentation is rich – even if, at times, sparse – and considerably ethereal. The expertly controlled vibrato of Amber’s vocals match the dream-like quality of the music perfectly, and you will most likely swoon with/for her – when she sings “we’ll jump in the lava, it’ll melt us together” you’ll be ready to take that leap further into the incredible and bizarre world Lightning Dust create.
German artist Niobe (aka Yvonne Cornelius) delivers a calm and graceful sound that is at once enchanting. Often classified as experimental electronica, her album – White Hats – contains decidedly vintage overtones (Moon River would not feel out of place here), which makes it perfectly in keeping with the ‘other-worldly’ sounds of the previous two artists. She croons her unusual lyrics in an almost 20’s jazz/blues bar style, which lends her voice, at least, to comparisons with the likes of Chan Marshall (Cat Power) and Beth Orton. Don’t be fooled, however, by all of the above – the sound is completely unique and certainly not outdated. There is, in fact, a perennial quality to albums that can successfully mix a blend of old and new sounds/techniques to create something as intriguingly beautiful as White Hats.