Thursday, August 12, 2004

nominee number three.

empress "the sounds we made" (pehr)

"empress these days are nicola hodgkinson and chris coyle. her breath has led empress through quite a few records now, painting clipped snowscapes with delicate brushstrokes as lo-fi and electronica share brief, teasing kisses. his nervy, fragile voice has guided super welsh scrabblers halkyn to some of the quietest and finest singles of recent years. on this record the sounds that empress made were usually four-note single-string acoustic guitar motifs, repeated as keyboards mass moodily, flickers and hints of glitch swarm in and out of the mix and nicola's voice, sounding clearer than usual but no less frail, completes the texture. things get little better than the first and last songs: "the summer december starts" sees nicola let her voice fracture over fragile windscapes, while the euphonious "vodka and the verlaines" wraps you around its cold fingers as the vocal realises how it would "be nice to see... you tonight" as winter draws in. "for trains", too, the lightest coating of glitch liberally deployed, is translucent, faint, sensual. likewise "the worry and the wine" sees the vocal drift in from nowhere until it takes control of the four recurring notes: "it's enough to break your back". while inamidst these various highlights, more experimental tracks ("snowshoes" or "alwensound") trace shorter, sweeter, instrumental pleasures.it is great that their album on geographic back in 2000 turned out to be far from their swansong after all: with the lyrics a little crisper, and the bassier tones of past classics like "planless" abandoned in favour of late-night friendly phasing and phrasing, this album carries enough charm to justify their continuing adventures in sound. and sounding more like halkyn, as we may have mentioned before, is something more bands should be doing more often."

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