There’s much good in the ongoing wave of freak-folkster (if
we’re even still using that term).
Caroline Weeks’ work (as Ginger Lee) in Bat for Lashes has perhaps
skirted the edge of that trend, although the band’s vibe may have leaned closer
to Cocteau Twins than Devendra Banhardt (and thank god for that).
Curiously, Weeks’ solo project Songs for Edna strips away much of what makes Bat for Lashes so
compelling. Gone are the churning,
tribal drums, the grooves, the ongoing sense of motion. In its place are circular explorations, most
often on nylon string guitar, of the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. The often-tentative vocal melodies shift
along with the simply picked guitar lines.
Millay is good source material for song. Her use of iambics and regular rhymes make
her lines flow naturally to the ear.
It’s a somewhat strange choice, then, for Weeks to deemphasize rhythm
and melody and foreground a kind of circularity that presents the poetry as a
kind of never-ending ramble: more a stream than a path. The sometimes-ecstatic cries of Millay’s
poetic voice are muffled here into that same stream. The words continue to flow without any real
differentiation so that each song bleeds into the next.
Weeks has said that many of these tracks are first takes and
that the songs were new at the time of recording. One wishes that a bit more time was spend
crafting them. Millay was careful to
craft her poetry and it remains some of the most important verse written in
America. Setting it to music is a heady
job, and perhaps not something to be taken quite so lightly.
“What Lips My Lips Have Kissed,” “Elegy” CHRISTIAN KIEFER