Ruby Throat – out of a black cloud came a bird

January 01, 1970



Garside carries on in the ethereal, mysterious, profoundly arty vocal tradition
of such other British female singers as Kate Bush and Elizabeth Fraser. In
fact, everything she does seems a fully conceptualized art project – from her
musical collaborations to her album packaging. (The jacket for out of a black cloud came a bird is so
artfully illustrated I needed help reading the song titles, which blend into
the background.) This kind of approach to music can lead to willful obscurity,
as the artist feels a need to work over melodies, lyrics and vocalizations to
make sure they’re not too accessible. That could seem “easy.” Bush fell victim
to that.


chief accomplishment with Ruby Throat – her collaboration with spare,
restrained guitarist Chris Whittingham, whom she met performing in the London subway – is to
remain accessible without compromising her artistry. She has also been in bands
Daisy Chainsaw and Queenadreena. Ruby Throat’s first album, The Ventriloquist, was impressive for
letting her push her powerful singing range and colorizations in a supportive
musical environment, essentially spare like folk but layered with ghostly
synths and sound effects. out of a black
actually isn’t as vocally virtuosic, but is overall an even better


production, still spare, is sensitive and astute – full of vivid touches like
the dog’s bark that starts “Billows for Skirts.” Whittingham’s guitar work
sometimes takes a dark, bluesy turn that Garside intuitively responds to, as in
“My Head.” When she sings, with a harder-edged tone than is usual, that “My
head is so heavy I want to smash it with a brick,” you believe. Similarly, his
playing on a version of Townes Van Zandt’s “Nothing” has the soulful, sorrowful
intimacy of campfire music, as does her singing. And on a folk number like “In
the Arms of Flowers,” when her voice assumes a whispery, breathy fragility, she
takes care to never let the point of the song get lost in the mood – she sings
with clarity and her lyrics are both imagist and direct: “In my darkest hour, I
lie down in the arms of these flowers.” This is as gorgeous a song as its title,
by the way, and it deserves a large audience. But all the songs these two write
have substantial pop structure – they don’t just bliss out. Ruby Throat could
surprise with its ability to find and maintain a large, devoted following.


Standout Tracks: “Billows for Skirts,” “My





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