Various Artists
Four Women No Cry

By Vernon Crane

 
Conceived as an updated version of seminal double LP compilations like No New York in which four separate artists get a side of vinyl, in this case a side’s worth of CD space, in which to ply their trade. Four Women No Cry showcases Rosario Bléfari from Argentina, Tusia Beridze from Georgia, Parisian Eglantine Gouzy and Catarina Pratter from Austria.

Rosario Blefari, who opens the whole shebang with Partir Y Renunciar, a reworking of a track from her album Cara, sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s a subtle, microtonally rich piece of pulsing, ambulatory electronica beautifully integrated into the melancholic pop melodies that Rosario devoted herself to perfecting on her last album, the marvelous Estaciones and throughout her career in Suarez, one of the best post-rock/Krautpop bands of the last ten years. Nunca, another re-imagining of a solo track, pulls its original melody inside out and adds bike bells, humming, jam-jar percussion and swathes of sheet metal synth reverb. In fact there’s a Musique Concrete element to all the four tracks, an overlap of street noise and found sounds into the pieces that reaches a peak on Vidriera Chilena, a supremely well-produced six-and-a-half-minute stroll around late night Santiago with a malfunctioning synth and cowbells in tow, which suggests that, rather incredibly, Rosario may have been listening to early Nurse With Wound.

With this fantastic start, the album continues to delight. Tusia Beridez’s music has a restrained, hymnal quality, multi-tracked, whispered vocals, muted choral singing and handclaps. The instrumentation is sparing but telling, and there’s an otherworldly, unsentimental quality to all the pieces, the chill, solemn beauty of an old church, which combined with track titles like Wound and Hextension bring to mind the pagan electro-folk of Coil and Current 93. Again, here there are more snatches of found sound, the real world intruding into the studio space, even a snatch of spoken Spanish in passing, so that despite the evident differences between Tusia and Rosario Blefari’s work, in the handling of space and the restraint, there is the sense of a deeper affinity.
   
Eglantine Gouzy, up next, has the most obvious influences of the four artists, drawing fairly heavily on both Laurie Anderson and Bjork, especially in the self-conscious naivety of her lyrics and vocals. Imagine if Amelie made an LP. It wouldn’t be bad, and in fact there’s a great deal of great stuff on all her tracks. Boa has the kind of deracinated dancehall kick-drum and skittery percussion that puts me in mind of Shadetek’s remix of Dem Nuh Know Me, and which, of course, is great. It’s simply that after Tusia it’s a bit familiar and, well, for me, slightly winsome.

If the French are serving up Jeunet-esque whimsy, it seem the Austrians are still dishing out deadpan angst. At first Catarina Pratter seems to be ploughing a weird, slowed-down sound-clash kind of furrow, and one filled with subliminal synth buzzes and gibbers to boot. Fortunately for us Catarina has a fantastic knack for avoiding sounding like Peaches (ie miserably derivative), and Dreaming Of Love is a thrillingly icy throb through all the nasty drones her keyboard can muster, complete with sped-up cartoon voices as backing vocals. Stronger Than Before, the other really substantial track here, is a more ramshackle, discordant affair, that uses subtle modulations of depth and tone to build up a constantly shifting piece of strung-out robo-balladry.

All in all, bloody marvelous and a compulsory purchase for the discerning. The only question left is, how can we get all of them over here for a gig?
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