Italians Do It Better (label)
01 June 2021 (released)
01 June 2021
The saxophone gets a bad rep in certain, blinkered, tone-deaf quarters. Whether lazily associated with loungey wine bar muzak or the madcap mischief of Benny Hill and Madness more often than not its subtle grandstanding and in-yer-face shadowplay gets overlooked.
Few sounds capture malevolence and menace, magic and mystery through a sly honk or wry skronk like the sax-machine. Combined with pulsing electronics and sci-fi atmo-sonics this filmic album – mixed by Dean Hurley, none other than David Lynch's music engineer - is an avant-scarred tour de source.
However, it is with the legendary louche lounge lizard himself, Bryan Ferry, that Sydney cum Margate native Jorja Chalmers once plied her daily trade. Crafted alone at night, the crepuscular context courses throughout. Mixing ethereal visions and surreal collisions between the imagined and the impassioned it amounts to the (pro)creation of a world where the wordless speaks as loudly and soundly as the wordy. A realm of benevolent violence and malevolent silence.
On Chalmers’ follow-up to 2019’s Human Again’ there are echoes and traces of Ferry’s solo work and also Roxy Music’s panoramic minimalism via Eno and Manzanera’s techno-frontierism and dynamic maximalism evident in Andy McKay’s breathless-deathless lung-busting. This is especially enervating on ‘I'll Be Waiting’ which kicks off with a siren’s wail and the inviting intonation with foreboding warning ‘I’ll be waiting … for you’. Its drawn-out drama makes it a redolent, resonant cousin to Roxy’s ‘If there is something’.
‘Boadicea’ and ‘Nightingale’ are incidental instrumentals with the latter a homage to Yellow Magic Orchestra founder Haroumi Hosono. On the flip side, ‘Underwater Blood’ and ‘The Wolves of the Orangery’ are coincidental soundscapes that evoke Chalmers’ slick allure of soundtrack lore: knowingly blatant and unknowingly latent with the influence of the horror-scores of giallo-ravers Goblin, nerve-end tinkler John Carpenter and Vangelis’s shimmering-synthetics (‘The Poet’; ‘On such a clear day’).
The spirit of Alison Shaw (from on-the-missing list group Cranes) permeates ‘Love Me Tonight’. A nursery rhyme narrative is (h)ushered inwards, a plea to be set free expressed outwards. ‘Nightingale’ has the mood and mellowness of Virginia Astley’s pastor-reality.
The Doors’ 1970 poetical sermon ‘Riders on the Storm’ receives a deconstructive makeover and take-under: its apocalyptic-tocking of time is here rendered in a manner akin to Lora ‘Essential’ Logic’s punky maelstroms.
‘The Wolves of the Orangery’ is inspired by the vengeful aftermath of the French Revolution, an episode where systematic suppression mutates into massive aggression and ultimately heads roll.
Cinematic, enigmatic, delightfully dramatic.