Everybody’s favourite tortured artist, singer/ songwriter/musician Cat Power mixes the dark and the light beautifully on her ninth album, Sun.
Power, or Chan Marshall in civilian guise, adds sonic weight to her usually stark songs by adding the edge of electronica. Synths, pads and the odd loop deepen and expand Marshall’s songs without altering their core. Her compositions are straightforward and always scarily effective.
On Sun (title track), the song is given a futuristic Bowie-like wash that gives Marshall’s dusky voice (an instrument of shifting moods) an effect like a priestess in a temple.
The strongest track, Ruin, runs on a looped Latin piano riff that tirelessly builds as it underscores Marshall’s views on complacency and materialism: “Bitchin’ and complainin’/While so many people ain’t got s#*t to eat.”
Several songs feature the same hypnotic drive and chordal patterns. 3, 6, 9 has an old R&B piano figure that Marshall commands from the distance like a singing preacher reciting effective passages.
More sketches on the dark/light theme are to follow on Sun.
Manhattan delivers more of Marshall’s looped piano progressions, this one being one of her most luminous pieces of music to date. Her vocal shines darkly, making a memorable kind of unintentional mini-epic.
Nothing But Time follows the same path and pulls Iggy Pop along to make a cameo.
Her blunt and sensitive views of human nature and material society are mixed as political commentary and moral incentive in Silent Machine and Human Being. They thrum along in a science fiction groove and Marshall pitches her husky voice higher on Silent Machine as a dark lament.
Sun is an easily attractive record from a musician who always brings some heavy ideas, this time as she shifts into a natural electro soundscape.
–– Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews music for The Morning Star every Friday.