Thursday, August 30, 2007

that voice (slight re-re-RE-return)

carl impostume maintains his strong recent form with an inspired contribution to the that voice colloquy, a sort-of-paean to CRASS's Eve Libertine and the way she
merged Ice Queen, Matron, Harridan and Dominatrix to end up as a punk mirror image to... but i shan't spoil it for you. "Rum", as Owen put it.

YouTubing with my bruvver Jez last week (five years younger than me, he was a major Crass fan as many second and third wave punx in the Home Counties--see also Brett Anderson--were), he escorted me to a video (some latterday montage type presumably, Crass surely didn't do promos!) for "Walls", which is the "desire desire desire/without your walls I come alive" quasi-funk/"we can do death disco too you know track" I mentioned recently the last time I got Felt Up ("recently"?!? it's been almost six months! How remiss of me. Soon come. Honest.). Here's the song/video in question. But that appears to be Joy de Vivre on that one as opposed to Eve. And while whiter-than-whiter she's a bit too warbly to be that voice.

I thought of a whole bunch more that voice candidates last week while trudging across the shingles and pebbles of Broadstairs beach in a faint drizzle. But the only one I can remember now is Sinead O’Connor. Again it's
that javelin-throwing purity, the tone of scorn and defiance, the aloof autonomy, the keening righteousness...
I want to say "stentorian" but apparently that just means extremely loud. Then again it comes from the Greek word for herald, so the sense of cutting through and proclamation and ringing out does kinda fit.

Correspondent Ari Abramovitz nominates a bunch of people, including Judy Henske ("folk not folk... Powerful, yet almost more performative," he says), Heart's Ann Wilson ("clean, clear... imperious with just a bit of heat, obviously well-trained," yes I can see where Ari's coming from here although the obvious model for Wilson's soprano stridency is Robert Plant, that's blatant with the combo of Heart's Zep-lite sound), Annie Haslam of Renaissance (now that's something I eagerly concur with but really on the basis of "Northern Lights", their sold-out, commercialised era hit, which I found transportingly sublime as a kid and which was something like Abba meets Steeleye Span) and... Wendy and Lisa
("if a removed sensuality is the crux... these two have it down cold"). Hmmm...

Ah now, one of the Broadstairs beach candidates has risen to the surface of my mindstream, prompted by the earlier post on Clem Burke... is Debbie Harry a latterday exponent of that voice? Perhaps here we stray too far from the archetype, but then again: very white, icy-pure at times, quite steely... a platinum-blonde timbre... "glassy" as Owen had it (and never more so than on "Heart of Glass"). And clearly (you only have to look at her eyes in the videos) what put her out of reach, untouchable, in a way beyond sexuality, was the smack. That was the ice in her veins. Lester Bangs complains (and complains) (and complains) in his Blondie book (someone should reprint it) about how there's no strong feelings in the songs, no passion, this utter emotional blankness (not entirely fair or accurate, but he's got a point), arguing that they, not Richard Hell, are New York New Wave's true cold-souled voidoids. But strangely (perhaps for legal reasons) he never once mentions narcotics.

Correspondent Terence J. Mcgaughey offers Annette Peacock, "in general, and on I'm the One and Sky Skating in particular... midway between grace slick's icy reedy alto on 'White Rabbit' and lotte lenya's odd, grainy soprano". Isn't she a bit too jazz though? Too hotly libidinous? X-Dreams is downright raunchy. But I know what Terry means. Saw her once at Ronnie Scott's. She's great, obviously.

Fangirl Emmy Hemmings alludes to an obscure Melbourne outfit called The Paradise Motel, something like the missing link between the Bad Seeds and Broadcast in her description, fronted by one "Merida Sussex (yes, very goth)... she really did have that kind of voice--ice queen". Emmy wrote a retrospective on their discography last year for Mess+Noise magazine. "An interesting band."

Which reminded me that a modern-day exponent of that voice, when she's not too sultry, is Sylvia Gordon, the singer in Kudu. Like if Siouxsie had fronted ESG...

(Which reminds me: amazing to learn that Siouxsie and Budgie have split up, eh?)

Winding up, I wonder if One Dove's Dot Allison belongs in this emerging canon with her pure-as-the-driven-snow tones... her solo records are a bit blah (and for similar "tries too hard/good music society/all the right references" reasons that vitiate Death In Vegas, her boyfriend's immaculate pastiche). But in One Dove, there were definitely some Moments. Above all there was “White Love” (and you want a particular mix... is it the radio mix, in fact? Or perhaps the 12 inch length original version. You definitely don't want the lousy pair of remixes on that they-waited-way-too-long-to-put-it-out album.) But whichever version it is I'm thinking of, the singing on that... ooo-eee. And above all the--can you even call it a chorus? Those wordless gasps and shivers? That's some serious bliss-2-dark bizniz there. "White Love" may or may not be about Ecstasy (the band’s name of course is a sly saucy nod to Doves, that era's pill of ultra-blissy repute) but the chorus sounds like someone swooning into a whitey. Dot emits the kind of deathgasm gaseousness you'd hear a year later on house-diva-looping rave tunes like Shades of Rhythm’s “Sound of Eden”. But really we've strayed a bit too far from that voice here, because that voice must always be commanding and in command of itself, not coming (and coooooming) apart at the seams and out into the cosmos. And "White Love" Dot is Saint Theresa in the throes, it's the sound of surrender not control.

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