Mary Poppins and Satan
I'm talking, again, about Ballad of the Broken Seas. I remember hearing "Deus Ibi Est" for the first time, and simply not getting it. What was this song hardly a "song" at all trying to do? What was it all about and where was it taking me? It grew on me, yeah, after a few listens, but never struck me as anything more than an easy opener, an intro, a warm-up. I left it at that.
Listening at home, however, I was immediately impressed by the size and texture of Lanegan's voice and deeply touched by the weight and impact of the bass. Now the song it really was a song, after all made sense. Initially lifeless and without direction, it was now thrilling and full of purpose. And that's some of the best that hi-end audio has to offer, I think.
But then there's the other side. The album's production is inconsistent sometimes pretty fine, other times pretty annoying. "The False Husband" offers the worst of Isobel Cambpell's work. Listening in the office, the effect on her voice is otherworldly and almost enchanting bemusing nicely complimenting the reverb-drenched guitar and swaying strings. At home, however, it was all too much. I realized that I couldn't come anywhere close to actually deciphering the wispy, grainy-edged words. Instead of enchanting, the effect was now infuriating. The piece no longer sounded anything like music, but was just a bunch of painful sounds flailing around helplessly, banging its numb head against the cold wall. Here, the system was revealing the recording's limitations. Whereas, earlier, the system was bringing the recording to life, it was now hammering those last few nails into the recording's coffin. If the music wanted to die, the system was going to drag it to the funeral. That's all.
It's almost as though Cambpell knew she'd done wrong, however, and she's desperate to make up for it. "The False Husband" is immediately followed by the wonderfully musical "Ballad of the Broken Seas." This much cleaner, much more honest composition is based on a delicate foundation of piano. Lovely strings and simple bass are set behind deliciously raspy vocals and breathy whispers. It works. What's communicated here is the emotion. Listening in the office is just pleasant. Listening at home is an event; I'm suddenly sailing, too, on this ocean of weird tears, somehow drunk, and completely wrapped up in cello cello, of all things.