a women in music compendium
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Living With Ants
Although she’s joined by other musicians, Mechanical Bride is primarily the creation of and showcase for the talents of Brighton’s Lauren Doss. Coming off the back of a handful of EPs and singles, not to mention a striking cover of Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ that saw her profile soar, Living With Ants is Doss’s first full album, and thus the first opportunity to let her personality and delightfully skewed songwriting really shine. It is, of course, her voice – a distinctive and versatile instrument, with its alto pitch adding to the intimacy of its delivery – that grabs and holds you first, and longest. Singing at the lower end of her range, Doss can be beautifully melancholy (as on the beginning of ‘Magpie’) or engagingly sultry (‘Lakes’, ‘Colour Of Fire’, ‘By Night’), but on tracks like ‘Peach Wolves’, when her voice raises higher, her singing becomes somehow even sweeter. Elsewhere, on ‘Demons’, she’s both sinister and impressive, employing ghoulish backing harmonies that come close to a wail, casually gliding her voice from just underneath the note it first aims for in a woozy, unsettling elision.
Within that swoon of a voice, some striking imagery is delivered. Animal references run throughout the album, giving it the aura of a book of shady fairytales or slightly subverted children’s stories. Strange beasts are everywhere, from the “whirl of the dervish” in ‘Colour Of Fire’ to the “m chorus” and parrots of ‘Walk Into The Forest’ and the “feathered friend” in ‘Boom! (Shine A Light)’. Curious and original pictures are painted throughout. ‘Colour Of Fire’ contains the curious imprecation “May the cow walk through fire”, while ‘Into The Fight’ sings wonderfully of “swallowing suburban railroads” on the journey to “the lights of Soho”, “where the wild ones go”. The titular magpie of the opening track draws the narrator “to the daylight” and is “sweet and kind” – a reversal of that bird’s usual role as the mischief-maker in fables and folklore – working alongside the mournful piano and Doss’s alternately intimate and sweet singing to bring a sense of mystery, of the not-quite-tangible.
That’s another impressive facet to Living With Ants: its stylistic range and scope. While several songs do much to suggest the elegiac sorrow of a torch singer, ‘Colour Of Fire’ sees the emergence of rootsier leanings and ‘Walk Into The Forest’ channels nineteenth-century music hall in its jaunty piano and in the quirkiness of the vocal and theme. Elsewhere, ’Into The Fight’ finds Doss on the verge of anger, animated and staccato rather than out-and-out aggressive; ‘Demons’ is the sound of a haunted, prohibition-era speakeasy; and fellow standout ‘By Night’ combines a mysterious-yet-sexy spoken (almost breathed) narration with rippling piano and the dull thud of percussion to create a gorgeous whole, at once underplayed and dramatic. Lauren Doss’s talents do indeed shine on this album, but it’s the sort of radiance that comes with a dark lustre that’s all the more satisfying for its slanted, slightly contrary yet wholly evocative sheen.
[Co-operative; June 13, 2011]
Written by: Jude Clarke
This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 29th, 2011 at 2:11 pm and is filed under albums & EPs, reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.