Hannah Marcus – Desert Farmers (CD)

Hannah Marcus – Desert Farmers / 2003 Bar None Records / 10 Tracks / http://www.bar-none.com / http://www.hannahmarcus.com / Released January 2004 / Reviewed 24 November 2003

While Hannah’s press release and CD is plastered with the fact that ey has worked and toured with Godspeed You Black Emperor!, “Desert Farmers” starts out with “Laos”, a track that warmly greets people with a coherence that GYBE! would hate. Synthesizers ebb and flow like the heat of autumn, while Hannah’s rich voice glides over the track. The ethereal potential of the disc is tapped during “Canon”, when numerous layers of Hannah’s voice are layered to create an otherworldly chorus, one in which some members add to the singing, yet others to the Spartan instrumentation of the track. Surprisingly, the breakdowns on these tracks, including “Stripdarts”, are reminiscent of something greater than a popular-music CD, but rather a neo-classical composition. These compositions put forth even more emotive force than the somewhat non-sensical lyrics of Hannah, and really provide the listener with another look into what shapes up to be a very complex individual.

Unconstrained by the mantra of providing the most unlistenable music to eir’s audience like eir’s friends GYBE, Hannah can make some endearing pop tracks, such as “Laos” or “Hairdresser in Taos”. “Haindress in Taos” is indicative of the swirling eddies of music that Hannah can create along with eir’s backing band, including piano, guitar, drums, and contrabass. The simile about neo-classical music can even be formed more closely with this disc – the tracks typically run longer than many typical songs, and as such, there are wildly dissonant parts in some of these tracks.

By far, the most endearing track on the disc (and the most radio friendly) is the radio-friendly blues and jazz-horns laden “Purple Mother”. Hannah takes on a 1930’s Billie Holiday or Sarah Vaughn persona. A sultry voice lays over the richly-ornamented track and ends the track much too soon, much too tragically. The disc seems to slip a minor degree after the overdose of richness that was “Purple Mother” in the laconically phrased “Fake and Pretty”, but the comparison of two radically different tracks so close to each other is bound to have that disconcerting effect on an individual. Overall, the disc is much more coherent than anything that I’ve heard that has been related to either GYBE! and ASMZ, which a number of individuals come from to play on the disc. Moving beyond the somewhat cannibalistic strong-female singer scene, Hannah makes an album that is stark, like white snow covering city streets, and as such, individuals can easy remember.

Rating : 7.5/10

Top Tracks : Strip Darts, Purple Mother

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