Rachel's Music For Egon Schiele
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 .
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.