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Monday, Nov 28, 2005

through the espers

"The song is Nico's, taken from her Desertshore album, one of the most distantly lonesome records in existence. And though structurally "Afraid" has little whatsoever to do with any of the U.S./UK folk-rock traditions that are typically Espers' stock-in-trade, its icy melancholia nevertheless fits itself perfectly into the Philly group's haunted wheelhouse. Unsurprisingly, Espers have chosen to re-forest the original's spare John Cale arrangement with their requisite cello, recorder, guitar, and chimes. But while Meg Baird's tranquil vocal significantly sweetens Nico's more monotonic plainchant, the cryptic instructions of the song's lyrics ("Confuse your hunger/ Capture the fake/ Banish the faceless/ Reward your grace") stir the branches with an unsettling wind. Despite the intrinsic warmth of Espers' hazy instrumental smoke-rings, as with all their most riveting performances the song is underpinned with a chilled, forlorn yearning only born of solitude. You are beautiful and you are alone."