Listening to Joanne Roberston’s debut album is something I’ve been doing in bits and pieces for quite a while. Songs have come, songs have gone, and while I miss some of the tunes that have disappeared into the aether, the remaining selections are uniformly stellar.
It’s hard to describe exactly how Joanne’s songs function. In certain ways they bear a similarity to folk music. Empiricially, they fulfill most of that genre’s requirements, but they actually hew to none of its conventions. The lyrics, the structures, the rhythms all breathe with a unique quality that feels born of a free improvisational impulse rarely associated with folk music. The surface of this music is so casual it almost defies you to get close enough to really see it, really try to comprehend it. But the closer you listen, the weirder and deeper everything becomes.
To not do so is to miss 90% of what’s going on. This album is like the soundtrack to a movie about semiotic icebergs – massive floes of content and ideas, obscured by the sparkle of water. Joanne is such a theoretician, it’s probably hard for her to trust her instincts at times. But she has obviously trusted herself to fly blind on some tracks here. Their forms are so open as to be almost non-existent. Others have been revised with almost an alchemist’s attention to detail – every cracked globe of vital element in the exact right place.
Transparent and opaque at the same moment, The Lighter represents a brilliant set of songs, made even more luminous by David Cunningham’s production touch. You are in for a big motherfuckin’ treat. Dig it.
--Byron Coley 2007
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