August 28, 2008

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Elsiane, Hybrid
Nettwerk Records, Aug. 12

The pink-latex pretzel-girl manga album cover art for Hybrid is revelatory of its contents — if Portishead were the house band foir Cirque du Soleil this is what you’d get. Lovers of vocal gimmickry will find nirvana in Elsieanna Caplette’s naïve but not totally uninteresting method of operation, shifting her jaw from side to side and tightening various areas of her tongue to affect vocoder and phase-shifter sounds, the punchline being that she’s doing all this over synths that do a fine job of sounding like a wide-screen orchestra. The slow, brooding “Vaporous” leans heavily on the strings that are a staple of modern Ronin cinema — think Jet Li contemplating his navel in a field of plum blossoms. Caplette’s bizarreness either fits the torchy, half-invisible “Mend (To Fix, Repair)” better or I had gotten used to her shtick by the time the song rolled around, while “Across the Stream” is a ski-adventure brochure for nut-hatches. The title track closes out the album in foreboding Die Form fashion. BEric W. Saeger