Why Is The Sea So Blue
RUSSIA MIKROTON RECORDS MIKROTONCD26 CD (2013)
This is a curious item, for me, a vocal album, but not one hewn from the traditional strata. The concept is like a strange amalgam of Derek Bailey’s Standards and David Sylvian’s Manafon. Or a dream pop / Stereolabic hybrid with very full excursions; with a welcome esoteric feel courtesy of Christof Kurzmann’s minimal arrangements. In other words, Kammerer has put her own musical arrangements to lyrics by some well-known wordsmiths. Interestingly, this is no ordinary album of cover versions, rather, these are reworkings; the compositions are credited to Margareth Kammerer and the lyrics are credited to the relevant persons, as diverse as Cole Porter, EE Cummins, Coleridge, Frederic Ogden Nash, Ned Washington and Tchicaya U Tam’si.
Opener “My Foolish Heart” is a kind of mutant cabaret, while the following track “In Time Of Daffodils” in particular has the minimal and bereft feeling of Syd Barrett’s reworking of James Joyce’s “Poem V” from Chamber Music into “Golden Hair”. Here, Kammerer duets with Christof Kurzmann. Her Telecaster hovers on the edge of the realms of intentional production much like Barrett’s did toward the end of his tenure with Floyd.
Margareth Kammerer’s melodic re-imaginings are particularly effective and affecting on one of the most recognisable songs of the Twentieth Century; Cole Porter’s Waterstones classic “Everytime”. To be fair to Waterstones, every time I visit the Brighton branch, they’re playing Sarah Vaughan – I think it’s the only cd they have. Whereas track four, “Speak Low”, is Frederic Ogden Nash’s words. Nash was the lyricist for the Broadway musical One Touch of Venus, collaborating with librettist S. J. Perelman and composer Kurt Weill. Which is what the subtle “cabaret” feel on this album touches upon, possibly. If there was Fender Rhodes on this it would remind me heavily of Red Peal. The guitar tips itself slowly down an infinite well of Shoegaze in a most pleasant manner.
Kammerer includes two tracks that are all her own work – “Time Shaped Face“ and “This Is Not A Dream”. “High” is an urgent mid-90s Dutch anarcho-bar cabaret torch song. On “High”, there is liberal use of Burkhard Stangl’s vibraphone and delay/reverb fx cutting cleanly into Kammerer’s vocals. All good, for sure, but by track seven, “mmmm”, things are getting a bit slow perhaps. “This Is Not A Dream” reminds me of an off kilter version of My Bloody Valentine and “Why Is The Sea So Blue” begins with almost a dawn in a tent in a field kind of vibe before going vibraphone-crazy in a David Lynch short.
Stereolab loom large in my mind at various points in this album, but unlike their cynically recycled myopic motoric gestures, filtered through a weird mid-60s influenced idea of Britpop, this “groop” really do play space-age batchelor pad music in the blinky night, but they are resident in a nightclub owned by David Lynch and Jack Nance. Incidentally, any of these pieces could work nicely as soundtracks to a documentary about Lynch’s snowman photography. Kammerer comes on like a more alert Laetitia Sadier. But This Space-Age Groop Don’t Play The Same Chemical Chord For Over Two Hours Of Every Single Night Of Their Lives.
At 34 minutes in total it is a pop album, at least it is my idea of pop.