Diamanda Galas – La Sepenta Canta (CD)

Call me uncultured, but I don’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 Christina’s JK Rowling. Perhaps it is also that I’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 doesn’t do anything for me. I found myself listening more to the incredibly nuanced piano lines in a track like “Burning Hell”, which is actually sharp, compelling, and virtuosic – everything that I don’t feel Diamanda is on La Serpenta Canta. The three-minute leadup to Diamanda’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 “Home on the Range”-ish “Baby’s Insane”. 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 “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” moves miles beyond and casual listening and forces out anything but the most serious listener – again, the piano is able to do some damage control, but not enough. The pushing of Diamanda’s voice so far on “Frenzy” 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 “My World Is Empty Wihtout You”, 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 “I Put A Spell On You”, 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 eir’s voice hits the highest register. Share a little, and the album would be a masterful mix of human and instrument.

Top Tracks: Ain’t No Grave Can Hold My Body Down, At The Dark End Of The Street

Rating: 2.9/10

Diamanda Galas – La Sepenta Canta / 2004 Mute / 15 Tracks / http://www.diamandagalas.com / http://www.mute.com / Reviewed 26 September 2004

One thought on “Diamanda Galas – La Sepenta Canta (CD)”

  1. What you have written is completely astonishing. Wherever and however did you
    put these names together? The difference between Diamanda vs Christina and Cher
    probably runs into the hundred millions of dollars. I am laughing here.

    The difference in their styles is all over the map.

    She is universally praised? Are you serious?
    Christina is universally panned? Where did you read this.
    Cher is universally panned perhaps for her singing now
    but not for her early work. And certainly not as a mega-million-dollar
    entertainer.

    The records Schrei X Vena Cava Plague Mass etc. are by no
    means works that are popularity contests.

    This is fascinating and it sounds quite personal.

    Harry

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