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Joanne RobertsonWorld Music
Painting Stupid Girls Signed Copies
Released: 16th September 2020
|LP||£19.99||Buy Now||In Stock. Dispatched on Monday.|
Painting Stupid Girls is a new recording by Glasgow-based artist and musician Joanne Robertson, released on Dean Blunt's World Music imprint. Trained originally as a painter, Robertson's recording career has cleaved a path through underground music, finding homes on several independent labels (Feeding Tube, Escho) before she began a fruitful collaboration with musician Dean Blunt, appearing on his studio albums and as a duo, most recently on the Walhalla album.
Robertson's songs often sound like they're wrung from the remains of a broken heart, her vocal's innate quality lends itself to a kind of eternal sadness. The way she uses it is often understated, almost off-the-cuff and naked, raw and direct. Her recording style has always been unadorned by studio artiface or extraneous effects, the sound of songs played direct to tape with whatever is lying around. On Painting Stupid Girls, her first for World Music, this almost Dogme approach is taken to extremes, to beautiful effect.
Robertson's simplicity allows a unique atmosphere to shine through the compositions. These songs sound like they're battered down onto a tape recorder, almost free-flowing, with strummed guitar and voice being the sole instruments. There's an almost distant patina to the quality, like we're listening to Robertson perform her heart out in the kitchen next door, the frosted window slightly open. The sound is live, with each song ending with with the artist's clunking button pressing signalling the end of the song. Time stretches out and folds in, ebbing and flowing with each song. In some way it's almost like listening to an old Blues recording on a 78, obscured not by time but by the medium.
What will always shine through on Joanne Robertson's music is her vocal tone, which can perform cooing octave jumps or a gritty vocal chord crack right at the precise moment it's needed. The songs have an imprivsatory feel, like the singer is all stream-of-consciousness as she's staring out the window of a world trying to emerge from a concrete lockdown, moss gathering from the lack of humans outside her window. Many of the songs have a linear structure, with looped chord progessions the bedrock to a jazz-like virtuosity in the singing. On High Noon, the guitar wavers and almost drones on open strings approximating a Red House Painters-like atmosphere, only for Robertson's escalating melody line to float into the rafters.
This is daytime music, played just before the golden hour, in anticipation of the night, the sun burning outside and gracing a smeared window. The aura of distance adds to the atmosphere exponentially and like jazz, some of the performances here can be enjoyed as linear audio journeys. Joanne Robertson has probably endured Chan "Cat Power" Marshall comparisons aplenty, perhaps, but her art feels more effortless, even more confident in its carefree attitude. On Hit, an arpeggio guitar sequence, buzzing and loose, is played underneath a vocal line that culminates in the line "If you hold my hand, I'll hold you too..." it's simple and effective.
For music so easily beautiful, it's rendered in a purely DIY fashion that adds to its power. Quickly performed onto a Tascam, the song wheels feels like we're intruding on a private journal entry, yet it could easily be recorded to sound like a Bridget St. John piece. Weirdly, one vocalist that keeps coming to mind listening to Painting Stupid Girls is Chet Baker. On his famed "Sings..." album, he broke away from the trumpet to reveal an instantly romantic voice that had a lilting, reedy texture that was unmistakenly his. Joanne Robertson's voice processes emotion in a similar way albeit with often doomed, romantic melody lines played over minor chord changes and resonating, sympathetic strings. At other times the music reminds you of the minimalist side of 2000s psychedelic Americana played by Six Organs Of Admittance, Sunburned Hand Of The Man in its openness, it's dusty emotive burning.
Open, warm, distant, the sound of staring out at a summer that almost arrived.