THE HEAT OF A LAMP
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.

 
Image by Tove Jansson

We/Or/Me - "Tell Sarah". This weekend in Montreal was sweltering. At night it was the sort of heat that makes half-moons feel full. Musically, there are two ways to cope with weather like this. You can listen & dance to sparkly summertime jams, barbecue cooking... or you can do as We/Or/Me do, as they did when I first heard "Aimless Day" three years ago. "Aimless Day" has just been reissued on the Ghostwriter EP (listen here), along with "Tell Sarah" and three other slices of dusk. We/Or/Me are a wondrous group - not just for the restraint and care of their songwriting, but also for the way these songs are recorded, slow and breathing. "Tell Sarah" glows, just of itself, like fireflies in a jar. [highly recommended - buy]


Sibylle Baier - "Tonight".
Sibylle Baier - "I Lost Something In The Hills".
Sibylle Baier - "Wim".

And this stillness brings me to Sibylle Baier, an artist who had made it into my peripheral vision but never further, until A sent me some songs. I wasn't just struck - I was smitten. Orange Twin sent me the record and now I'm not sure which is more flabbergasting - what a stunning album this is, or how little attention it received. It's an artifact, a locket, a lake; it's so many shades of melancholy; it's one of the most startling records to cross my desk in ages, and its songs linger long & long.

Sibylle Baier was a German actress (appearing in Wim Wenders' Alice in the Cities). Between 1970 and 1973 she recorded some songs on a home reel-to-reel machine. Then they were put away for more than 30 years, until Baier's son passed them to J Mascis and J Mascis passed them to Orange Twin, and the American indie label released Colour Green in 2006. And rather than attract the furore of Vashti Bunyan's Diamond Day, well - it didn't. Not very many people seem to have heard it, or of it. Bunyan's pretty album, and especially the very pretty "Diamond Day", became icons. But this - a better album, a stranger & more precious one, - seems to have languished. Never reviewed by Pitchfork or the New York Times, never sewn onto a million soft sleeves.

But this modest, captivating masterpiece should be in the collection of anyone with a taste for bedroom folksong. Colour Green is like a sister album to Leonard Cohen's Songs from a Room (a clear influence), and even Julie Doiron's Desormais (an impossible influence). And while the sadness of "Tonight" is at times almost deafening, there's elsewhere - as on "Wim", - a whimsy that recalls, say, the line drawings of James Thurber or Tove Jansson (see above). The spark at the heart of a lamp.

If you don't own Colour Green, you should buy it. I've shared three songs here in the hope that I can persuade you.

Sibylle seems to be working on new music.

[buy]

Posted by Sean at June 9, 2008 12:19 PM
Comments

Incredible selections, as usual. Especially the Sibylle, which is very lovely. Thank-you.

Posted by Jo at June 9, 2008 5:28 PM

Sibylle Baier reminds me that evermore remains to be discovered.

Posted by BMR at June 9, 2008 5:54 PM

"Diamond day" is indeed pretty so is come "come wind come rain" its a hard find but good find it sux Vashti bunyan almost seems ignored

Posted by Itzy Bitsy at June 9, 2008 6:56 PM

What a lovely post. I couldn't agree more about the Sibylle Baier album. It is absolutely gorgeous.

Posted by Kyle at June 10, 2008 2:40 AM

I agree with the praise of Sibylle, but I have to say that Tell Sarah yanked at me with a stronger pull.
beautiful post and a perfect title!

Posted by camille at June 10, 2008 7:07 PM

sibylle baier swiped my breath and dropped my heart to my ankles. thank you.

Posted by timothy at June 10, 2008 8:19 PM

Colour Green is really gorgeous and haunted. It's astounding how intently one listens to silences when something so spare is recorded with so much gain. I found it a long while back via the Stypod (RIP). I can't recommend her record enough!

Posted by Daniel at June 12, 2008 4:50 PM

Beautiful,childish and innocent everything what this modern tme has lost.When I want to enjoy I listen to her.

Posted by Karen at April 16, 2014 3:13 AM

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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