Swaying on the back of a camel across the Egyptian desert, you recognize that you have a long ride ahead of you. The barren landscape changes only slightly as the winds swirl around the timeless landscape. Your eye focuses on the shifting hues of the sky, first gold and orange, then red and purple. This is the experience of ‘Sunset Over Cairo.’
Rhythmic and lulling, Listen Lisse releases her third album this month with music she describes as “bittersweet folk punk phased into electric drone.”
A native of New Zealand, now based in London, Lisse can be found performing on both fronts. Organic folk mingles with edgy punk as Lisse sets insights to music. The personal quality of her singing suggests that she shares these stories from her own diary.
“Outlaw of Her Love” sends out alluring and ghostly vocals while telling how “she moves her body like a snake, the dancing never seems to end.” The dance turns into a wrangle with the saloon feel of “Lucky You.” And here’s where Lisse struts her walking boots, singing with the flair of Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) in her statement, “Don’t you dare turn back to me, just win me over.”
Sunset Over Cairo takes an early dive with “Streetwise” which has a lot of potential without the predominant reading-poetry-to-music style. Cramming in lines and lines of lyrics along the same rhythm as the guitar soon becomes tiring to the ear. The last thirty seconds is awesome because Lisse finally sings in a way that offsets rather than emphasizes the guitar chord series.
“Bad wine” does better as a tale set to music. However the song remains lyrics-laden and repetitive. “Criminal” starts out creepy and haunting, leaving me expectant for the big jolting thrill around the corner – explosive heavy guitar drones, thumping drums, or even an outbreak of wailing. But no, the stalker just walks through the night, tiptoeing through the darkness, without ever snatching at someone from behind. There’s a slight increase in energy at the very end, but by then wait has gotten too long and the thrill is over too quickly.
Halfway through, Sunset Over Cairo finally picks up with “Living for the Thrill of It.” Lisse at last refrains from vocally overriding the contribution of the instruments, even if just for the final minute of the song. “Eagle” is too much like the earlier songs, lacking a chorus; without that intermittent repetition, the listener lacks a focal point from which to reflect on the stanzas. When every line is emphasized equally, they all blend into the music.
Fortunately, the last three songs show Listen Lisse at her best. Deep and reflective, “Rumour” feels like snow trickling into a widening stream at the dawn of spring. Lisse’s voice is lovely when calling, “You are the eternal hunger.” The tempo pickup in the second half is well complimented by the higher octave singing.
“Fevered Dreams” is very entrancing with its breathy vocals and steady bass notes. The hypnotic rhythms accompany a bounty of internal musings. Each line unravels emotion while maintaining a cerebral quality: “I’m playing with fire with your desire…. Perfection never suited you.”
Nicely dynamic in singing and tempo, Lisse celebrates Sunset Over Cairo with “Victory March.” The contribution of instruments and vocals is well balanced here as Lisse employs a chorus cry, “Join the wave, the victory march… It’s hard to watch the one you love suffer for the rest of us.”
The album can be downloaded at www.listenlisse.com or on last.fm.
11 August @ New Cross Inn, London
New Cross Road, SE14