Joanne Weaver’s Noir Electro Glistens and Gleams From an Icy Distance
Going out in costume this Halloween? Nobody really wants to be the Boston Bomber, or a Republican operative, or a laughingstock, but we can all dress up at the expense of Dzhokhar Tsareyev, or Hillary, or Trump, right?
Speaking of dressing up, the blip on the radar that was Lana Del Rey seems to have jumpstarted a cottage industry of would-be femme fatales who think that a slinky black dress, fire-engine-red lipstick and a smoky come-on of a voice somehow equates to noir. Among the genuinely noir artists here in New York – Karla Rose & the Thorns ripping it up at CMJ a couple of weeks ago, Liz Tormes haunting the American Folk Art Museum last night – Joanne Weaver factors in. Her latest album Interstellar Songbook II is streaming at Soundcloud, and it’s one of the most original, interesting noir releases of recent years. Imagine Jeff Lynne circa 1981 producing an album of jazz standards reinvented by a swing chanteuse with a completely unadorned delivery that’s all the more disarming for its directness.
The not-so-secret weapon throughout this album is an Omichord synthesizer (or a damn good digital facsimile of one), its shimmery oscillation building a starry-night ambience throughout each of the the eleven tracks on Weaver’s sophomore release. Like a late-period ELO or Pink Floyd album, it opens with some wry, sampled movie dialogue. Begin the Beguine sets the stage, awash in icy reverb, the tremolo on the funeral parlor organ wide open: it’s closer to Orbison than the material on Weaver’s more overtly jazz-oriented debut, which is why it works so well
Weaver freezes any possible Borscht Belt shtick out of Golden Earrings and turns it into hi-tech Vegas noir: the deep-space kettledrum completes the desolate picture in contrast to the come-hither lyrics. Moonlight Serenade takes the atmosphere back into the shadows, while Sway – the album’s first single – gets an aptly creepy trip-hop groove. The strongest – and saddest – track is Summer Kisses, Winter Tears, reinvented as a Lynchian bolero.
With its languid trip-hop beat and shiny, chrome-plated late 90s downtempo lounge production, If I Didn’t Care is out of place here. Weaver’s take of Autumn Leaves brings back the gloomy Sunday evening mood, its layers of keys and delicate electronic touches spiraling out into the darkness. From there she segues into the album’s most cinematic track, a lushly ominous, neoromantic version of As Time Goes By – if you can handle the anachronism, think Julie London covering Siouxsie.The final cut is a delicate, flamenco-tinged take of When the Swallows Come Back from Capistrano. Whoever produced this album is a genius. Weaver’s NYC hang is the swanky Flatiron Room, 37 W 26th St. (6th Ave/Broadway) where she’ll be with her band on December 18 at 9 PM.