Skip to main content

float free in the emotional chiaroscuro

Rachel's Music For Egon Schiele

(APOCRYPHA)

(Quarterstick Records)
review from Melody Maker
Feb 17th, 1996 

"One has to realise what restraint it needs to express oneself with such beauty. Every glance can be expanded into a poem, every sigh into a novel. But to express a novel in a single gesture, joy in a single breath, such concentration can only be found where self-pity is lacking in equal measure"- Arnold Schoenberg. 

 Rachel's "Handwriting" LP, 13 infinitely evocative songs without words but with plenty of 
orchestration, was THE great lost underground American classic of 1995. Such gorgeous shocks are never repeated. Here they're surpassed, "Songs For Egon Schiele" is, if anything, even more of a unique delight. It is, in a word, incredible.    

This suite of pieces was written for a piece of dance and theatre based on the life of Schiele, performed in Rachel's home town of Louisville. But, for a piece so specific in it's reference, you find your mind running further than you've felt it in years. I want my retirement to sound like this; while it's on, I can't stop thinking about my childhood.


More minimal than it's predecessor (Rachel's are now pared down to just strings and piano) this LP, from it's stark opening to its sparse, shattering coda, is a million miles away from the implicit superiority of most "classical" music. 


Rather than being concious that you're listening to Something Without Guitars Or A Beat, you're so instantly transported within your own imagination that within a minute you're locked into its spell, the piano lacing fingers over your spine, the cello and violin filling out the sound, picking out melodies that seem to suffuse the room with changing moods as they wind their way around you. 


Dark, mournful at times; even though training and the like are probably involved, I prefer to think of Rachel's as writing these pieces like pop songs and then tearing them light years from the moorings of band and noise and letting them float free in the emotional chiaroscuro that only these instruments can create.


It's less important that this is the most impossibly moving American record you can hear right now, or even that the care in it's recording and exquisite packaging make it feel like a personal gift to you .
(IT IS). 


What's important, what's overwhelming, is that your room can be a constant stage with this record. Be ready for your close-up and let your mascara run. 

There'll be no stopping it. 

Perfect and unafraid. Let it in.

Neil Kulkarni 


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

MANIC STREET PREACHERS, ASTORIA, LONDON, 1994, LIVE REVIEW, MELODY MAKER

(photo by Pat Pope, full text)  MANIC STREET PREACHERS  ASTORIA, LONDON  SORRY, lifelong fan, but I’m a new convert. I got into them a week ago and here I am. (They start with “Faster and, after the dub and horrorcore they’ve played, it jarrs and fits perfectly.) OK, see it ain’t attitude cos anyone can do that, just cock a snook and suck your cheeks. It ain’t glamour. Glamour is boring. Glamour is loud pretty people who hug, hug, hug, giggling at your geek self all night. And it ain’t rock’n’roll; it was your rock’n’roll that made a nigger-hater the King, your teddy boys who Paki-bashed for Mosley, Notting Hill 1958, your rock’#n’roll build on SAMBO DON’T SELL. I ain’t interested and the Manics are way beyond that. (“Yes” is Stjepan Mestrovic’s “Balkanisation Of The West” turned punk anthem, as if it could be any more punk. No higher compliment exists.)    The four founding points of Manics songs – one: modern life is untenable. Two: no one ever gets used to loneliness. Three: if tr…

BRITAIN SEE THYSELF PART II. A POST-REFERENDUM DIARY AND A HISTORY OF BRITISH SELF-PITY

Tuesday June 28th, 2016.

OK, a week since the vote and hey, I know the drill. Similar to those habits you kicked back into after 9-11, after 7-7. Heads down. Don't notice the people crossing the road to avoid you. Don't register any reaction to the shop assistants who drop the change with a panic'd repulsion into your foul brown palm. Keep your eyes down, no eye-contact with anyone. Get through the street to safety because the street is a place where you are a target again now, just as you were as a child. Don't ever ever relax again because that moment where your vigilance slips, when you start doubting your own paranoia, is the moment when the van draws up and three pink faces look your way grinning, when the kids see their chance to have some fun, when the guy on his bike who you hadn't thought of leans into the pavement to spit his venom, when the words will come unbidden and deafening, those words that won't just fuck up your day but will haunt your sleep, …

A POP DAYDREAM PART I: THINNING THE HERD.

This was my dream. And it was so vivid it really happened. 
I hired a van. The expense was a concern but I needed the capacity. First the long drive north to Middlesborough. I knew he'd be at home, visiting relatives. Made sure my HeadBag was packed. Blindfolds and ballgags. Rope. Some starved, stroppy badgers. Maxi-pack of chloroform-seeped bogroll from Costco. Masking tape. As I eased onto the M1 I told myself again the story of how it was developed from the need for waterproof ammunition casings in WWII. I had to, I was bored, and it's a long schlep up to 'boro. Idly, after securing a mortgage for a bacon roll at Tibshelf, I had an argument with my other personality about whether Middlesborough was in North Yorkshire, County Durham or Teeside. 
Nothing got resolved. A plain-clothes officer pulled me off in the hardshoulder near Malton and issued stern words about punching myself while driving. No hilarity did ensue. I needed to focus. This was a serious business. By noo…