Saturday, November 29, 2008

Muse : ik

Earlier today I headed into one of my favourite cafés, The Black Stilt, and found it packed. I enquired about a few free seats but they were all reserved, so I stood at a bar Rumsfeld-style. After a bit, a young woman kindly offered me one of the seats I had enquired about, at least until her friend got back. I noticed she was working on some artwork and we got to talking. It turns out Cleo was making covers, pictured here, for her newly released CD, Muse : ll Ik. She had recently lost her job and needed some rent money, so she had a release party and made half her rent. I listened to it and bought one right away. Given the flurry of production she is still developing a MySpace page, but if you would like to purchase a copy for between $7 and $20 (I encourage you to do so) email me or post a comment and I'll get you a copy.

Cleo described her music as a combination of jazz, dance hall, drum&bass, and hip hop, which I think is pretty accurate. If I had to choose one genre it would be hip hop – she raps in a quick paced rhythm reminiscent of Matisyahu. The intricate compositions, however, make it difficult to stray far from the jazz designation. Her voice is an ethereal mixture of Shawn Colvin, Azure Ray, and Ani DiFranco; she also incorporates some Blige funk and Björk vocal effects. Although the production quality of all the songs is not equal, something a few tweaks on the mixing board will rectify on a second release, their ingenuity is. I really enjoyed Simple; the catchy guitar lick loops nicely with her fast flowing rap and the lyrics are filled with reflexivity and contemplation, e.g., "You sit there cynically pretending not to care about my lyrics" and "The West was better before my ancestors settled here." On Manifest she collaborates nicely with a male vocalist and adds strings to the funk beat. (It would work great if the short clip of throat-singing at the end was worked into the song.) Stairwell Sounds and Great Goddess profile the great range of her voice, from haunting to whimsical.

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