A Mesmerizing Genie.
From the hundred or so CDs my students have given me over the years I’ve never felt compelled to write a public review, until now. A true original work has been handed to me this summer after the exams. However, being the critical teacher I am, the humble cover annoys me, it does the music no justice. Like any precious gem it would need the right socket, a framework that brings out the light at first glance.
Next the name Odile itches: a prison from which there seems to be no escape; possessed by literature, music, visuals, chained by the centre figure of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s ballet, the black swan. Can it be more obvious and explicit before we even hear one note?
Aah but then comes the music and all is forgotten. To begin with this album sounds really good. A first requirement for me to keep on listening. That wall of bass obstructs the auditive view here and there, the vocals are left hanging dry in the wind some moments. I hear it, and more, but it never destroys what is created by the unit as a whole. The order of songs is perfect, meandering between the shades, never too dark or too heavy to fall off the canvas. Never tiring the listener away from the path.
Most of all, you know a creative work by its inspiring effect. Imagination is contagious.
Forget Odile. Who is this creature luring her listeners into her sphere from which there is no return? A seductress, there’s no doubt about it, but which one? As I follow her spell I think I might know her, a name rests at the tip of my tongue.
Is it my childhood Rusalka forever desiring, forever drowning or another Bohemian tree spirit mesmerizing the wanderers?
Or is it a Celtic warrior or goddess, a fortune teller gazing in her crystal ball. A Greek dryad or siren?
No worn out feminine platitudes please, they are useless. She is all and none, she is the unknown genie.
She guides me like a firefly into a world beyond this one. There are insects, trees, flowers, an unsettling rainforest with whispers and shadows and soft squeaking hinges (or am I imagining things). So I am not in a rainforest, I must be in an apple tree orchard surrounded by meadows, listening to Catherine explaining to herself why Heathcliff and she can not be together, while a gate behind her slowly opens.
Or a French door softly closes as Marion Delorne plays her lute and sings to her poet lover who scribbles away in the late afternoon in the golden glow of her bold boudoir before poverty gets her.
Smaller yet, I am in a smoke filled room where the door is closed to an analgesic reddish-brown, heavy scented juice of the poppy. Where the spirit of Sai Jinhua sings while her pipe steadily smolders her chaise longue. Her white face still un-invested. True to the vocal’s stubborn detachment. As a narrator, just a detailed observant. The red lanterns long ago diminished.
She is a genie, seemingly fragile yet determent. There is no escaping her strong hold. She and her musicians create landscape after landscape in which the listener keeps heading for the next bend and the next and the next while she always keeps her distance. This is her strength and her weakness, her Achilles heel. We need to connect at some point in time and space. Some moment we need to get to know her or let her go.
Next album will tell us what she decides. She knows that. In her last song she turns around and appears up in your face, her mouth almost touches your ear; she is on your left, on your right, above and in front of you all at once. Although still untouchable, this might be a promise of what will come, what might be possible. This is her first step to approach us directly. Will it be her last? Coming closer it might as well serve as a farewell before she vanishes forever. And suddenly I remember, she must be the dream of the dessert gypsy coming through the lions lips.
This is not an album to spin when you need to do chords, attend to others or manage stuff. It rather fits those long summer nights when you roll around sweaty and breath doesn’t seem to come easy. It might suit you right after a high summer storm when the last raindrops unexpectedly and a-rhythmically roll from soaked leaves. A misty autumn afternoon would also do, when the grey covers the horizon and a chill crawls under your door. Draw the curtains, light candles, leave your baggage at the door. Let your dress or attire slip silk-like from your shoulders, lay down, close your eyes and prepare like you would for a cleansing, a purge. Let the genie guide you, follow her flow, take the stepping stones in her painted river one by one as she displays her polished words gently, like colorful marbles gently dropped in the patient sand. The lyrics unfold like a tea ceremony; mysterious in their slow, deliberate intention. At the end the river empties itself in the moon dominated sea while she wants you to know: “Some flowers are picked in vain.”
Original and unique. An exquisite musical journey.
Odile: Songs& lyrics by Josephine van Schaik / co-written by Timon Persoon & Annemarie van den Born. Produced by Josephine and Timon. Mixed by Sonny Groeneveld / mastered by Tom Tukker.
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