brainwashed

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Liz Durrett, "The Mezzanine"

With lyrics hinting of violence, repression, and longing, Liz Durrett maintains an air of soured innocence, as if grappling with the transgressions she's witnessed and whether or not forgiveness is possible. She mines decidedly different territory with her evocation of a haunted South. Personal tragedies, hiding places, and the unraveling of mysteries infect her second album with a melancholy as insidious as the kudzu she invokes on her track "Creepyaskudzu." Although she plays guitar on all but one of the tracks, her use of the instrument serves more as a backdrop since the emotional weight of the material rests almost solely on her voice.


Warm Electronic Recordings

The subtle yet superb production of Durrett's uncle, Vic Chestnutt, brings the album to life. Vic, who along with his wife Tina accompanies Durrett on a variety of instruments, fills the space with minimal arrangements that support the songs themselves without causing undo distraction, such as the faint panning distortion underneath "Cup on the Counter," or the xylophone offsetting feedback on "No Apology." Since Durrett rarely sings above a whisper, Chestnutt wisely layers and double-tracks her voice for maximum impact.

The first half of the album proceeds at a similar pace until she breaks up the flow with her piano instrumental, "Silent Partner," which also would have been a good opening track since its melody encapsulates many of the dark themes found elsewhere on the album. Her vocal style doesn't alter too much until "Marlene," where she extends notes in a display of acute vulnerability. However, it's not until the final song, "In the Throes," that she finally fills the space with the amplitude of her voice rather than the texture.

The frustrating thing is that she proves that she has a voice capable of variation, but she doesn't explore the possibilities nearly enough. It's also a shame she doesn't take more musical chances like she does when she plays feedback on "No Apology." Yet The Mezzanine is an accomplishment in itself by the way it invokes the geography, both physical and mental, of a landscape that "hides what it chokes/is it not beautiful."

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