May 17, 2005

Tara VanFlower "My Little Fire-Filled Heart"

Tara VanFlower was one-half of darkwave masterminds Lycia, who released numerous records throughout the 1990s. On her second solo album, though, she both expands and eschews Lycia's dark, depressing atmospherics, opting instead for something much...weirder. The use of the word "weird" isn't merely an exaggeration by a music writer who doesn't "get" it--there's just no better word to describe My Little Fire-Filled Heart. It's not quite folk, nor is it goth or electronica or darkwave--it's truly something that defies all categorization.

My Little Fire-Filled Heart isn't traditional music in any sense of the word. VanFlower sings with a little-girl voice that's more mature than Kate Bush yet younger than Joanna Newsom. That is, of course, when she's actually singing. Much of the time, the 'vocals' consist of nothing more than VanFlower harmonizing and singing words that are either distorted to the point of being unrecognizable or are simply too faint to comprehend. Almost all of the songs have some sort of sample or tape-loop as its accompaniment; sometimes, those samples are the only form of melody. For instance, on "Yaya," her faint, whispy singing is over a melody of sampled throat singers and of her speaking some unintelligable words. Then there's "Naked King," which transforms VanFlower into a dominatrix, with her saying things "take it off little man" and "reward yourself" over a beat that suggests the cracks of a whip. The album's highlight is "Wren," an epic eleven-minute song that's nothing more than her singing a sad, melancholy song about love over a recording of rain falling tempered with a jewelry-box melody of "Love Me Tender."

It's utterly beautiful, of course.

My Little Fire-Filled Heart is a record that's too strange to classify, nor do I think it deserves classification. If 2005 didn't already have a musical enigma, then it does now. This is a mysterious record that's gorgeous and beautiful and puzzling and confusing and much more, I simply cannot say, because ultimately words do fail...

--Joseph Kyle

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