Sibyelle Baier Colour Green

[Orange Twin; 2006]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: folk music
Others: Jana Hunter, early Suzanne Vega, Cat Power

Colour Green's "Tonight" is not your typical songwriter's tonight. Its significance is slight and undramatic. The guitar playing suggests, like much of Baier's melodies, a demure exhaustion with the mundane daily sustenance of life, even as the delicately piqued singing seems to imbibe it. This music is a quiet paradox -- a steady muted pulsing outside of lament or exaltation but nonetheless brimming over with sturdy sentiments. The sparseness of the arrangements on Colour Green may have been borne out of necessity (Baier reportedly recorded these songs on her own in the early seventies, frequently while her family was asleep), but it feels as if her music was meant to be as muted as it is. Like Linda Perhacs, Ms. Baier never made any other recordings, and this adds to the jewel-like quality of her album. It has the capacity to make one feel like Jesus' Son's Fuckhead, listening to that lady sing outside her open bathroom window towards the end of the film. You feel almost intrusive, but the music's so arrestingly beautiful in its purity that you feel blessed to have eavesdropped.

While Bridget St. John seemed more suited to the ornate instrumentation of Songs for a Gentle Man versus the relative sparseness of her debut, Baier is the complete opposite, perfectly at ease with nothing more than her voice and guitar. The last track highlights this well; softly bowed strings accompany her and it just feels like window dressing. These songs are so subtly rapt in their conversations that a listener needs little in the way of supplemental hooks. Her little "mmm" refrains on the title track are enough to trigger sparkshower goosebumps all over the unwitting listener. This music is careful without being tentative and still without being unmoving. There's an odd undercurrent of sleepy conviction in Baier's delivery that silences any notions of the songs being merely 'pretty.' Though pretty they are! So pretty and sweet it's enough to make you burst into a fine cloud of mist.

Others have written of her sad, spare approach as being ahead of its time. While nothing on here is quite as harrowing as the similarly bare bones work of Chan Marshall, Baier's gentle voice -- consistently tempered with an edge of weariness and apprehension -- shows this to be somewhat true. But these sadder, less traditional folk singers have a timeless quality that makes this observation somewhat irrelevant. These artists are not at home on street corners or on stage. They're home recordists in spirit as much as by happenstance. You don't need to know their back-stories to realize they don't make their songs for any measure of money or fame. They are the ghostly voices in our heads made real, and they're all the better for emerging from (and sometimes retreating to) the endless little nooks of the world. There's certainly enough “Tonights” in the songwriting realm but these are ‘tonight’ songs that manage to celebrate and ruminate in the same measure. They're fleeting nature will not fail to enthrall those who listen.

1. Tonight
2. Softly
3. I Lost Something in the Hills
4. William
5. Remember the Day
6. Girl
7. Wim
8. Forget
9. Colour Green
10. The End
11. Driving
12. Forget About
13. Says Elliott
14. Give Me a Smile

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