Lisa Germano
In The Maybe World

(Young God Records)

A success that comes so late (about thirty years after his death) and is so absolutely unexpected (starting with the way it took off, plus the fact that everybody's favourite album now appears to be the introverted, dark Pink Moon, not the colourful "acknowledged masterpiece" Bryter Layter) like the one that came to Nick Drake is quite obviously bound to originate an endless series of questions, starting with the ones concerning his lack of success while he was still alive. Was it 'cause he was shy? 'Cause he refused to play live? Or was it because radio did not broadcast his music more often? As readers will notice, the possible causes are always looked for in the realm of the "external" factors: without them, his music would have not been confronted with any more obstacles on its way to a wider appreciation. And while it has been officially written that during his life Nick Drake sold about four thousand copies (in all) of the three albums he released, today it's not uncommon to see one of them (and most of the time it's Pink Moon) among other CDs many people own (granted, quite often they are just burnt CDs; but in cases like this it's things like good taste and appreciation that really matter, don't you agree?).

I have absolutely no idea how may copies of the very good Excerpts From A Love Circus CD (1996) were sold. I only know that the last album Lisa Germano released on 4AD, Slide (1998), sold a mere six thousand copies worldwide; so few, despite its having a very appropriate production work, and sonics, by Tchad Blake, who made the record somewhat more accessible than her previous releases. I know nothing about the sales of Lullaby For Liquid Pig (2003), a self-produced album whose tiny budget didn't prevent it to reach very remarkable artistic peaks. It's my hope that the fact that her new album is being released on Michael Gira's label may contribute to eliminate at least some of those aforementioned "external obstacles". (But what about the "internal" ones?)

Whether an aesthetic dimensions deserves to be called "classic" or "monotonous" is something that every listener will have to decide for him/herself. While it's not my intention to postulate the existence of common traits that aren't really  there, I'll remind readers of Nico's unchanging dimension (yes, here we have the case of another artist who was lauded a lot, while her albums languished). As was the case with her previous album, the real protagonist here is Lisa Germano's voice: as usual, subdued; as usual, with a very pronounced proximity effect (but I'd suggest it's better they'll go easier with the compression next time); vocals on the foreground: I just hope that that grieving, and on the surface so modest, approach to interpretation won't make listeners miss the austere lyricism of her melodies; I also hope that the album being one of a piece won't make it difficult for listeners to perceive those multiple vocal dimensions, where voices are often engaged in a dialogue.

Again, what we have here is for the most part a solo album. We have some outside contributions, for the most part quite subtle (Joey Waronker's drums, Sebastian Steinberg's double bass, guitars by Brady Michaels, Craig Ross and Johnny Marr), but as it has lately been the case with her albums, most of the instrumental work here comes from Lisa Germano's electronic keyboards, piano, guitars and violin. She also produced the album together with Jamie Candiloro. Given the fact that the album sounds quite homogeneous, an attentive attitude is necessary in order to appreciate those tiny moments that mean a lot: for instance, listen to the vocals going up at the very end of Moon In Hell, and the instrumental coda for overdubbed violins which follows.

The album appears to deal with different kinds if "definitive" endings, but the opening of The Day and the closing of After Monday tell us of a work of art - with an introduction, and a very clear sense of closure - not of a mere "diary from depression". (Lyrics are not impossible to get from listening alone; anyway, they are included in the nice CD booklet.) As it was the case with her previous work, here things mostly work (or don't) as a whole; anyway, there are many things worth mentioning: Too Much Space and Moon In Hell represent Lisa Germano's "classic" dimension, and the same is true of the narration in Golden Cities; more unusual is the tense atmosphere of the track In The Land Of Fairies; In The Maybe World is immediately beautiful, in a kind of more accessible kind of beauty, just like Red Thread; the acoustic piano (and one of its creaky pedals?) dominate Except For The Ghost, which to my ears possesses a different kind of vocal breathing.

Beppe Colli

Beppe Colli 2006 | Aug. 17, 2006