It’s been getting progressively harder and easier to find music that “fits the profile” of this blog. Easier because electronica is not this weird bastard daughter of dance music anymore, but an organic part of the modern music world, and now artists that aren’t employing electronica elements in their music steadily moving towards extinction. In just a few years (well, probably more than a few, more like a decade and a half, but still) we went from a “electronica/dance” to (seems like daily) multiplying new “related” genres – indietronica, modern classical, electronic soul… Most of those new genres, sub-genres and sub-categories are slow, dark and rhythmic enough for me to consider suitable for this blog. But. If I want to preserve some sort of integrity I have to… well, preserve some sort of integrity, otherwise trippin’ the rift will turn into just another music blog. So, this is the increasingly hard part: finding new music that doesn’t just formally meet the criteria of “trip-hop” (and let’s admit, stuff like this does seem pretty dated and boring), but music that feels right to me and will feel right to my readers. Not those “it’s not trip-hop it’s downtempo” folks, who seem to major in History Of Electronic Music and minor in Asshole-ogy. The folks that do understand that “trip-hop” is much more than a genre and that music is an ever-evolving and ever-changing being. What does this long-ass preface have to do with the album that I’m about to review (I will, promise!)? I guess I just wanted to say how happy it makes me to find music that feels right, no matter how strange it may be.
Scarlet Monk – AnnaBella could be the strangest album I reviewed so far. It’s an electronica record where the actual electronica seems somehow non-existent. (And now I realize how hard it’s going to be to explain what I meant by that) It’s sort of like Al Farrow Cathedral – it’s made out of gun parts and bullets but you don’t see it at first, you see the cathedral. And even after you do realize that those are gun parts and bullets, you still see the cathedral. AnnaBella is built around (and using a lot of) electronica elements, but it creates a big and captivating image that won’t let your mind focus on technicalities. Even the first two tracks that seem pretty much like typical chillout downtempo material with somewhat generic beats somehow evolve into something exquisite and very tasteful, mainly thanks to Scarlet Monk‘s vocal talent, but also to the beautiful minimalism and delicate arrangement of elements surrounding her voice. And then accordion kicks in on “Labyrinths”, and things start getting curiouser and curiouser. Definitely my favorite track on the album, it’s a harmonious mess that bravely combines trip-hop and cabaret, it is sexy, sensual and hilarious, but, most importantly, despite its wild array of elements, it’s beautiful. A couple of quieter tracks follow (and those of you longing for more electronica will appreciate the way “Placated” plays with sound) and then “Permission” takes AnnaBella to the new emotional height with raw desperate vocals, cold beat and abrupt unsettling ending. “Ring (Still…)” – the a cappella version of the opening track – is an intro into the second part of this traveling theatre of an album. On this half electronica gives way to live instruments. What is strange though (and it is very subjective since I most exclusively listen to electronic music nowadays), is that to me the sound lost big part of its lively appeal when it lost its “lifeless” elements. Maybe it was that contrast of artificial structured anti-music of electronica and Scarlet Monk‘s so very organic and live vocals that drew me in so much. I would probably enjoy the hell out of the second half of AnnaBella if I heard it at a show. But as a part of a studio album it just made me want to listen to the first half more. (I’ll still mention “Cinema” because it’s a great freakin’ song). This is one exceptional debut album, folks, and I am very intrigued to see how Scarlet Monk‘s music is going to evolve. I hope that it will still fill as right for this blog as it does now.
Go to www.scarletmonk.com to find more info about the project and the album.
R.I.Y.L. My Brightest Diamond, Tom Waits, theater
personal favs: “Labyrinths” (feat. Phillip Morris), “Permission”, “Cinema”