Call me uncultured, but I donâ€™t see where someone like Cher and Christina Aguilera can be so universally panned and the virtually same thing, exemplified down the years by Bessie Smith and Ella Fitzgerald, and Diamanda can be put into such high regard. Maybe the fact that Diamanda is so much harder to get into, the Thomas Pynchon to Christinaâ€™s JK Rowling. Perhaps it is also that Iâ€™m not cultured enough to really get into eir style of music, but warbling out lyrics, not quite singing in a popular style nor in a way acceptable to opera standards, really just doesnâ€™t do anything for me. I found myself listening more to the incredibly nuanced piano lines in a track like â€œBurning Hellâ€, which is actually sharp, compelling, and virtuosic â€“ everything that I donâ€™t feel Diamanda is on La Serpenta Canta. The three-minute leadup to Diamandaâ€™s singing on Burning Hell evaporates, shrinks away from eirs voice, being replaced by a very dead-pan, sullen line that really fails to deliver.
Diamanda finally gets into eir element half-way through the first disc of La Seprena Canta, in the very â€œHome on the Rangeâ€-ish â€œBabyâ€™s Insaneâ€. Dropping out the songbird warbling for a very 19th-century Western seductress voice, DFiamanda actually connects to the listener as a person instead of as a change in pitch. The animalistic pitch of â€œIâ€™m So Lonesome I Could Cryâ€ moves miles beyond and casual listening and forces out anything but the most serious listener â€“ again, the piano is able to do some damage control, but not enough. The pushing of Diamandaâ€™s voice so far on â€œFrenzyâ€ is the only move by eir of any artistic merit on the entire first CD, with the title malady afflicting eir to such a large degree that it strikes eir incomprehensible.
On the second disc, things really start going during the extremely distorted, Wendy Carlos and Vangelis-influenced piano lines of â€œMy World Is Empty Wihtout Youâ€, another track where Diamanda lets eir singing stand out more than the shrill warbling that ey is known for. Galas shuckls all emotion away from the classics â€œI Put A Spell On Youâ€, making it into a lounge song and about as valid as a William Shatner recording. Galas has the most amazing instrumentation on La Serpenta Canta, but eir is so content with eir that these piano lines are always put to the side as soon as eirâ€™s voice hits the highest register. Share a little, and the album would be a masterful mix of human and instrument.
Top Tracks: Ainâ€™t No Grave Can Hold My Body Down, At The Dark End Of The Street
Diamanda Galas â€“ La Sepenta Canta / 2004 Mute / 15 Tracks / http://www.diamandagalas.com / http://www.mute.com / Reviewed 26 September 2004