Niobe The Cclose Calll

[Tomlab; 2011]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: rock, electronica
Others: Tujiko Noriko, Barbara Morgenstern, Wechsel Garland

To say that this release is experimental does not quite do the album, or the tag that one might attach to it, any justice. While it may be assumed that the methods pursued by Niobe to achieve the unique body of The Cclose Calll might have been experimental, the outcome itself does not necessarily reflect that. What these 12 tracks constitute is a peculiarly crafted collection of ideas that shadow a number of musical interests and avenues, spanning genres and articulating the artist’s musical quirks in a highly personal fashion.

As with her previous albums, Yvonne Cornelius is credited with all of the vocal input on The Cclose Call, as well as with just about everything else. It’s a schizophrenic but interesting listen, as Cornelius single-handedly brings a wild blend of characters to life on the record, each of whom curate, discuss, interpret, and contribute to almost every track. The songs form a genre-spanning collage of abundant influences and styles, from psychedelic rock that nods incessantly to The 13th Floor Elevators to deep and pulsating electronic samples that would not be out of place on the next Ryoji Ikeda release. These genre shifts are frequently accompanied by Cornelius’ gorgeous, smoky vocal efforts that drive the record along its rickety and unpredictable trajectory. This makes for an entertaining yet unbalanced listening experience, particularly when taking into account the gallery of characters who are brought along for the ride.

The first of these personalities instantly reminded me of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ Night Clerk in Mystery Train. “The Stillness,” the album’s gritty and captivating opener, begins with a confident and soulful remark, something about a nervous breakdown, which instantly brings to mind the charismatic and altogether hilarious performance by Hawkins in Jim Jarmusch’s masterpiece. Cornelius later brings to life a motley crew of characters that spit poetry and rhyme all over the record, carrying the listener through a musical jungle of dirty rock ’n’ roll, harmony-riddled electronica, and twee pop jams. This all happens among a splattering of sound effects that include, but are by no means limited to, thunder claps, ringing telephones, knuckle cracking, and random snippets of conversation.

Cornelius has an excellent grasp of projecting herself through a variety of channels that instantly evoke the musicians who inspired her to create her music, but it can make The Cclose Calll feel empty at times. Left to her own devices, Cornelius seems to be resorting to mimicking her diverse tastes while ignoring the record’s direction. As a result, the album is unquestionably unique, but Cornelius appears distracted by her surroundings, forgetting that she’s the one with her hands on the wheel. This makes The Cclose Call a bumpy ride, albeit one that you won’t forget anytime soon.

Links: Niobe - Tomlab

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