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Charlotte Church

EP 4
alligator wine records

Or CCEP4, as I am tagging this series. And this time our intrepid songsmith and singer floats us into the world of mathematics and scientific curiosity…..the live launch of the record at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith had the new tracks weaved between spoken scientific quotes pondering beliefs and possibilities underlining the dream-like ambience of the material. On the previous EPs there has been a very surreal flavour to the music which tumbles from hard-banging and mostly harsh beats to synth washes and passing sound clouds hissing with distortion and hints of phasing and flanging. Though two eager acoustic drummers are used live, the overall feel of the ensemble music and backdrop is very electronic and for me a tad cold. But this isn’t a group I could play in, not that this prevents me appreciating the construction and the skills evident here. The players led by Jon Powell are fired and fuelled so this is light years in style from, say, Kraftwork or Neu. Hence any warmth at all has to come from Charlotte Church’s voice and on these records, she’s sparse with it

I’ve said it before, but no UK singer can get near this woman for power and tuneful roar. Or has ever, in this sphere of music.  Most electro-pop chanteuse go the whispery / breathy route over electronica whereas Church is controlling the power of her vocal output for the 5th gear at strategic moments, it is then she lets everything go and the listener is right in the jetstream. All credit to her recent EP debut sound guys for capturing her rush of notes and keeping the middle intact, it cannot be easy to harness at times. Roger McGuinn was in similar territory on The Byrds’ Chestnut Mare…

The cuts :  ‘Entanglement’ has a jungle drums intro and there is that careening voice jetting into the soundscape, sustained notes over a grainy Hammond and with pretty guitar figures like sonic butterflies flittering across the rhythm. Insistent as a song and her heart sounds in. Klaxons and clicking decorate the song. ‘Love Alone’ has a pure Bowie ‘Low’ era stark tempo and prominent (plectrum ?) bass guitar against eerie keys. A hint of the operatic ballad in the vocal and the number is very Berlin (the city not the group) and the phrasing is very David Bowie to these ears. It’s the ill-at-ease rhythm and harsh snare.

‘Little Movements’ is already a fan favourite and is taken at a softer pace initially. A hint of vocoding on the voice – sorry guys this is a criminal offence, THAT voice should never be treated as it can only detract. Not to worry, we are soon in a lightweight funk chattery passage with a mix of tones that suggest ZE label’s mutant dance era. Messy but sticks in the mind.  ‘Death & Mathematics’ is the winner for me here, again a Bowie-ish tempo and that lovely voice, subtle and skybound. By far the best melody on this disc and so beautiful it almost aches as the synth strings float along. A biting guitar figure snaps at the heel of the vocal with the rhythm section almost accommodating its force. It’s kind of Zero 7 territory in Tina Dico times, ethereal and haunting. “Hood Shade’ begins a shade hesitantly and with a held-back vocal. Sax and organ nod to soul but we are not in Memphis, amigos and no dance beat emerges. Instead a trumpet noodles and suddenly Charlotte is in full voice as the beat hardens into a rockier mode. Then a swift pastoral fade.  Pretty weird !

Layered voice phrases start “Love’ which I think is a single. A choir of Churches and a plunge into what Georgio Moroder would consider a Latin beat, but briefly. This is a tone poem or mini-operetta whichever way you approach it. Again the vocal is powered and tuneful and it rounds the record off with a very positive vibe via a looped sequence…puts me in mind of Bowie’s lad’s ‘Moon’ film somehow..I bet CC has watched that ?

Individual, adventurous, heartfelt…but again, not for everyone

Pete Sargeant

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