Eszter Balint – Mud (CD)

Moving through a number of different sounds, from a Nico-like heaviness to eir voice to the simple fuck off attitude of someone like Fiona Apple, Eszter makes an album in “Mud” that is both chock-full of artistic cred while still being very pop-derived. With a heavy slant towards the more minimalist of composers, like Philip Glass in tracks like the more vocally-biased “Good Luck”, Eszter really makes a bold statement. If eir’s voice fails, than all a listener has left is a very Spartan set of instruments to rely on. However, the fast majority of the tracks on “Mud” are solid enough to be able to rely on these lyrics, and create a semblance of a strong album. Some of the tracks sputter to an end fairly prematurely, such as the stuttering “If”, which would rather pound the same vocal ornament into listeners’ heads for 15 seconds instead of breaking into new territory.

Most of the music on “Mud” is innocuous indie-rock that only can be said to be a little farther off the mainstream than say the new Liz Phair album. At its worst, these tracks can double as elevator music with vocals. Where Eszter could be experimenting with a Patti Smith or Nico-style of music and vocal creation, eir tends to spend eir’s time on the traditional pop-alternative sound, possibly to make something more of a name for eirself. While there are minor forays into a country-western style, especially in “Paperweight”, the territory covered isn’t that far from the comfort zone that Eszter needs in each song. The musicians on this album are par-for-the-course, able to make a coherent and catchy background beat, but also suffer from the same comfort issues as Eszter. It take a jazz and blues influenced track like “Your God” to really show individuals that there is something more to the backing band.

Some of the tracks on “Mud” are not your run-of-the-mill tracks, especially the penultimate track “Weeds”, using an interesting time signature to augment Eszter’s voice, and acts very properly as a lead-in to the final “Who Are You Now”. The piano and smoky quality of Eszter’s voice do magnificently in intertwining themselves into one instrument, floating on the waves of emotion into something that is near epic in its performance. While the disc itself may largely be dragging itself into a rut with a number of these tracks, there are still a few diamonds in the rough that keep this disc from sliding off into the midsts of mediocrity.

Top Tracks : Paperweights, Who Are You Now

Rating : 4.6/10

Eszter Balint – Mud / 2004 Bar None Records / 11 Tracks / http://www.eszterbalint.com / http://www.bar-none.com / Released 9 March 2004 / Reviewed 15 February 2004

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