Saturday, July 01, 2006

Out Walking (2003) – Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham

(Part Four of the Gorgeousness and Gloom tetralogy)

Yes, she provided the singing voice of Jem, served as singer for Belltower, co-starred with Julia Roberts and Justine Bateman in Satisfaction, and became Luna’s foxiest bassist. But, whatever Britta Phillips did up until the day she recorded “Out Walking” pales in comparison. For, on that day, she approached ne plus ultra.

Phillips’ sensual, aching purr drifts in a narcotic aura of disorienting beauty, wafting in slow oscillatory gradations between melodic zeniths and nadirs with the cigarette-distressed beguilement of a femme fatale. She describes a couple’s weary apathy—his rote, her remove. On occasion, however, their romance sporadically awakens in sparks of rejuvenation, as when an old song brings those feelings flooding back.

Spectral reverb and toasty compression envelope Phillips’ breathy emissions that wash over a substratum of Mellotron string drones, roundwound bass string heft (both courtesy of famed David Bowie producer Toni Visconti), and pendulating drum lethargy. Fellow Luna bandmate/leader Dean Wareham loiters off to the side, sparingly dispensing subtle thrums of guitar. Gliding on a draft of Mellotron flute, tintinnabulating sleighbells, and morsels of vibraphone, the instrumental break captures the enchanting otherworldliness of a winter evening in Reykjavík. Britta winds up by recalling her quondam life as the person she was referring to, at one point finessing the word “from” with such absolutely gorgeous expressiveness that it triggers shivers of synaptic bliss, suffusing the being with holistic euphoria.

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