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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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Tara Jane O'Neil

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Review of the Day

"No Watches, No Maps"
While the Fat Cat people boast about their committment to introducing fresh new artists, they've played the game relatively safe for their entire existence. A successful record label has to establish themselves pretty much before they can make bold moves like this one, releasing a CD comprised entirely of demos received by the label from complete unknowns. Fat Cat established themselves by releasing an assortment of buzzworthy 12" split singles, sneaking in a relatively unknown act on one side with an established act on the other side. In sales it's called the "foot in the door technique" — now that we've got your attention, try this! The label's intentions are well and this technique sure paid off.
Conceived over two years ago, this collection gathers 74 minutes of people you most likely have never heard of, many of which will probably not surface again. While Fat Cat have pointed out that they love all of these songs, limitations of the label have only allowed them time, budget and manpower to do full releases of a couple, two of which Com.A and Duplo Remote have tracks appearing here. The collection is surprisingly impressive, starting off with the brief abrasive noise of QT?, continuing on with glitch electronica Autechre worshipping sound of Phluidbox, the sci-fi death theme sounds from Jetone and pentatonic Asian taste of Zooey. By the time it reaches the slick production of the instrumental Fridge-ish jam, Ukiyo-E's "Val Doonican," the grand scope of the collection is shifted, transforming it from a collection of random electronics to something more. At this point, the compilation of unknowns begins to strangely mirror a well-constructed soundtrack or an 80s-era cassette-only comp. Changes continue when the pounding abrasive head nodding track from Moneyshot bursts in, a melancholy piano piece from Beans arrives a few tracks later, followed by more electronic and organic contributions including the gorgeous low-tempo submission from Cytokine.
While each of the 19 songs on here are quality work, it's easy to tell that all of these artists are still in the infancy of their careers, with much more to learn about originality, composition and production. Much like releases like the "Rising from the Red Sand" comps for example, I'm predicting this disc will become one of those collectable references on discographies popping up years from now. On the horizon for the label is a section on their website with exchanges of music like this and hopefully more collections.

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