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Dickens: Dombey And Son

A New Beth Gibbons Song

I generally avoid listening to pop music during Lent, and will hold off until after Easter posting about a couple of pop albums that I've been listening to recently. But I'll mention this, which will be of interest to any fan of Portishead. Possibly that includes, apart from me, only one reader of this blog, but anyway, if you are one, you know that Beth Gibbons is the singer for that singular band, and will be interested in her solo album, Lives Outgrown. It's not due out until May, but one track, "Floating On a Moment," has just been released. Most of the video is a swirling sort of liquid kaleidoscope effect which started to give me a headache after fifteen or twenty seconds. But I looked away and enjoyed the song. 

Here's the Pitchfork article about the new album. This struck me:

The songs address anxieties about ageing, according to a press release. “I realized what life was like with no hope,” [Gibbons] said. “And that was a sadness I’d never felt."

"No hope" presumably means "no earthly hope," and may or may not mean "no hope of any kind ever." Apart from that theological question, it's interesting that she'd never felt that way before. She's 59  years old. I'd say that means she's had a fairly fortunate life. Or that she has a generally positive temperament. Which I wouldn't have supposed from her singing. 

Though this is the first album released under her name alone, the album Out of Season, on which she shared credit with "Rustin Man," the pseudonym of Paul Webb, a former member of Talk Talk, seems to be at least half her work. I have that one and liked it on initial acquaintance but have not really given it a proper listen. Maybe I'll do that between Easter and May. 

She also sang the soprano (?) part in a recording of Henryk Górecki's Symphony #3, the famous "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs," which I have never heard (the recording, I mean--like at least a million other people, I have the CD which made the symphony famous thirty years or so ago). I thought it seemed like a gimmick, but this review, also in Pitchfork, makes it sound interesting:

Symphony No. 3 has a nightmarish undertone that tends to get smoothed out in dulcet recordings—one of the texts is meant to be the sound of a woman calling out for her murdered child—and Gibbons brings that squirming danger right to the surface.

Part of the tension comes from hearing her untrained voice scale these rocky heights. Her vibrato, tight and trilling and barely controlled, sounds an awful lot like someone fighting off a panic attack.


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Just dropping in to say goodbye until Easter. My Lenten internet fasting mostly feels like giving up junk food, but not reading your blog is like giving up meat.

Aww...thank you, that's a powerful compliment.

I hate to admit how much I don't like Lent. And I don't even do anything very trying.

G00d song!-- definitely reminiscent of some of the stuff on Out of Season, although like you I had to listen without watching the video.

I bought the Gibbons Gorecki but don't care much for it. She's fine when singing in her lower register but when she had to go for the high notes it was obvious she was straining to hit them, and I found that distracting. What the Pitchfork reviewer liked, I didn't, apparently. Your mileage may vary.

I've listened to several recordings of this piece, including the famous Upshaw/Zinman one, and for my money the best I've heard is the one by Zofia Kilanowicz and Antoni Wit on Naxos. I like the singer's voice better than Upshaw's, whose vibrato to me is too "wobbly." There's a DVD available of Kilanowicz singing it with the composer conducting but I've not been able to find a copy at a reasonable price.

I do wonder why someone thought having Gibbons sing it was such a great idea.

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