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December 03, 1985 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-12-03

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ARTS
Tuesday, December 3, 1985

Page 7

The Michigan Daily

r
Records
The Arms of Someone New
Susan Sleepwalking
(Office Records)
Depressives have fun on their own
terms, dammit. They get their own
. toys to play with - alcohol, cigs, old
letters to pore over - and they even
get their own cultural icons. Munch
and Van Gogh are the obvious role
models in the painting world, but
things really get exciting in the realm
of music, what with the rich history of
composer self-annihilation in the
classical field and the very concept of
the minor chord.
To each his own morbidity-and-
despair fix, whether it's through
something pale and tremulous by
Satie or the whole razor-blade-and-
tequila singer-songwriter school of
such desolation addicts as Leonard
Cohen, Nico, Janis Ian, early Jackson
Browne...
The relatively brash nihilism of
early punk soon eased toward the
'more binge-and-barf promoting
melancholia of Joy Division, early
Echo and other paranoiac pop bands,
eventually veering off into the
,psychotic turf of Psychic TV and
other death/art/industrial outfits for
the benefit of the more severely
disturbed fans of ennui.
Wallowing in self-pity pressing the
auto-restart every time the needle
scrapes the disc center, pipelining
that fatal fifth until face meets floor:
it's a dirty job but somebody's got to
do it, and there will always be
musicians around eager to provide
the appropriately forlorn soundtrack
moods for your gloom.
All of this is leading to the latest
record that a chosen moody few of
you can no longer do without, The
Arms of Someone New's Susan
Sleepwalking. 10 tracks. Two guys,
Steve Jones and Mel Eberle. Their
own label, their 6th release (not coun-
ting the T-shirt). And Champaign,
Illinois - something's obviously
going on there of a seriously hap-
*pening musical nature and it sure
doesn't have much to do with the
Elvis Brothers.
This new release offers some of the
most exquisitely down music I've
heard since ... well, since last year's
Arms of Someone New EP Burying
the Carnival; which was the most dit-
to since the Rain Parade's
stylistically very different but equally
sad/beautiful/mysterious Explosions
in the Glass Palace.
S Largely keyboard-based, Susan
Sleepwalking is as pretty as the set-
ting sun, but don't go looking for any
new-day-dawning optimism. This is
music of exquisite finality - when
you're feeling four-star depression
and morbidity and you know it's not
just a "phase;" baby, it's THE WAY
THINGS ARE. There's an odd air of
contentment ot all this slow dissolve-
and-fade fatalism, something slightly
sweet, sickly, musty, diseased.
0 Here's some more descriptive prose
from their press kit: "muted,"
"distinctive without being alarming"
(eh?), "earnest," "dark, ethereal,

moody," "lots of effects," "fed to
you subcranially" (my fave), "so
basically, well, ecumenical..."
"progressive," "slow-tempo psych-
out rockers," "acid-laced?" "not
wildly ecstatic" (yep), "very spacey
and swooshy," "a mood of quiet or-
derly progress."
Ghosts of Joy Division, Pink Floyd,
Nico, Suicide and other sanctified
Valium tranceheads pad down these
musical hallways. Some specific
sounds: Neutral vocals echoed unto
infinity, the built-in emotional am-
biguity of those tinny circa-'81 drum-
box beats. Whale song-like wails on
the eerie "Song for Krista." Philip
Glasslike foundations of almost
aggravating simplicity built into sur-
prisingly delicate forms on "Karen
Said." Lonely harmonica howls. The
shiver-producing, too-beautiful inter-
play of jangly guitar and spare
keyboard/vocal lines on "The
Fisherman."
Sounds that can be curiously affir-
mative in emotional effect yet still
manage to call up images of
somebody nodding off on heroin
("The Turning.") Spooky campfire
strummin' along sounds, like on
"Rainbows." Vintage 1980 Eurodeath
sounds - you know, when even the
guitar fuzz comes hard as concrete
and about as sympathetic - a la such
late we-want-to-scare-you-with-the-
inscrutable types as Bauhaus on
"Susan Slept Here." Sounds not dan-
cey but boring. Not happy, but not
gratingly arty-industrial or Windham
Hillish tears-of-a-yuppie either.
The sound of when hardly anything
at all is just enough. The occasional
sound of not tiuite enough, repetitive
dirge-mood soundtracks to meander
by: "With Louise," "A Turner Sky."
The disconcerting sound of a speedup
to something nearing conventional
liveliness ("Seven Days from Now")
- it works OK, but one doesn't expect
even minor gear shifts from a band
that generally stays (another press
quote) "consistently within a kind of
Gregorian-Zen format." A thick haze
of organ chord, a strangled-baby
backing vocal, a bell here, a general
noodling around. Mostly just the
sound of beautiful bone-dry melan-
choly, the truly moody blues.
Lyrics: "Panes of glass/enclosed
the trees/several days/became by
home." As they say in my hometown,
"whuh?" As with most things vague
and pretty and mystical in nature,
like say Herman Hesse's writings or
most religious rites, the best policy
is: do NOT analyze. Skim the sur-
face; it's probably deeper than what's
underneath anyway. In other words,
skip the lyrics.
Near-ambient music that it is,
Susan Sleepwalking could as well be
retitled Music for Interiors - both
architectual and of the mind. It's
great, it's addictive, it'll scare un-
wanted intruders away and invite the
anxious concern of people you like. So
draw the shades, double-bolt the door,
turn on the answering machine, set
the booze and sharp objects on the
table (as meditation objects, if
nothing else), turn the TV set onto the

best all-static channel (sound off), put
on the headphones, lay your head on
your pillow and think those bad
thoughts.
Remember - you're young and
fragile, you'll never be this pretty
again, and if you wait until a few
years from now to indulge your
depressive side, no one will find it at-
tractive.
Susan Sleepwalking is available by
mail for $7 from Office Records, P.O.
Box 2081 Station A, Champaign
Illinois, 61820, as well as at your more
esoteric vinyl markets.
-Dennis Harvey
Jose Carreras
French Opera Arias
(Angel)
Angel Records' recent release Jose
CARRERAS: French Opera Arias
highlights excerpts from the best of
French opera. The record includes
arias from Gounod's Faust, Romeo et
Juliette, and Polyeucte, Massenet's
Le Cid, Sapho, and Herodiade, and of
course Bizet's Carmen.
The Spanish-born Carreras is
primarily known for his work with the
great lyrical operas of the nineteenth
century. In the early '70s he made a
name for himself in Italian opera,

especially in the classics of Verdi.
Carreras' rich voice is well suited
for these slow-moving arias of
longing. The dark languidity of his
voice lingers over each word with
romantic intent. For the most part
these selections don't give Carreras
the chance to extend his voice as
much as he is obviously capable of
doing. Most of the arias are beautiful,
and he does sing them with emotion,
but aria after aria of songs about
longing can easily blend each other,
becoming monotonous. The stark ex-
ceptions to monotony here are Le Cid,
Romeo et Juliet, and Carmen. The
refrain "O Souverain, o Juge, o Pere"
in Massenet's Le Cid, is powerful and
heartfelt. Carreras' voice expresses
the emotions of defeat and faith-
fulness. In the emotional "L'amour,
l'amour" from Gounod's Romeo et
Juliette, Carreras is at his best; one
can almost see the balcony scene
from Shakespeare's famous play. Un-
fortunately, a slight nasal tone is ap-
parent on some of the selections; the
opening to Lalo's Le Roi D'Ys is
especially nasal.
Carreras is supported adequately
by the Orchestra of the Royal House,
Covent Garden. Jaques Delacote is
the conductor. The music is solid and
well played, but not too obtrusive to

interfere with the spotlight on voice is excellently suited for these
Carreras. French, romantic arias. Whether he
Though Carreras does not have the sings about a lost country or a lost
clarity and tonal excellence that other love, Carreras makes one feel it.
tenors such as Pavorotti have, his -Noelle Brower

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