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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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Review of the Day

FOETUS, "BLOW"
Every single track from Foetus' latest album "Flow" is given a "Blow" job for this companion remix album. Eleven hip remixers take their turn but Thirlwell isn't quite willing to entirely let go of the controls as he maintains the executive producer's chair. For me, remix albums are usually a hit and miss proposition and this one's pretty par for the course. I often can't help but think, 'yeah, this is alright, but I like the original much better'. First the ones I like. Franz Treichler (Young Gods) completely turns "The Need Machine" inside out from raucous rocker with aggro vocals to frosty soundscape techno with whispered vocals (which must have been re-recorded). Phylr (JF Coleman, ex-Cop Shoot Cop) does a nice job of transforming "Mandelay" into one of his own moody, predominantly instrumental pseudo-industrial tracks. Sean Beaven (Kidney Thieves, longtime NIN mixer/engineer/producer) gives "Grace of God" some drum 'n bass fills, clever new samples and eventually a slower guitar fortified chorus. Ursula 1000 serves up "Someone Who Cares" with a whole new white trash race track influenced backing reminiscent of My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult circa "Sexplosion". And Thirlwell himself can't help but join in on the fun by obliterating and extending "The Need Machine". And now the ones I don't much like. Charlie Clouser (Team Nine Inch Nails) gives parts of "Quick Fix" an extra rock jolt but he also relies on far too many NINnie-isms like vocoded and hacked up vocals. Pan Sonic and Kid 606 essentially make new, annoying tracks of their own from pieces of "Kreibabe" and "Shun" respectively while Panacea buries "Heuldoch 7B" in distorted beats and synths. Yuck. And DJ Food tries to make "Suspect" creepier by pitch shifting down much of the vocals but the music is such a mess it makes it intolerable. I'll say it again: hit and miss. I'd rather listen to "Flow", one of my favorite new albums of the year. Foetus.org states that a "Blow" related event is planned for next January in Los Angeles.

 

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