"I. I. You." - Charlotte Martin's latest CD 'Stromata' Connects To Every Part of You
(...And You Can Dance to It Too!)
A review of 'Stromata,' the new CD by Charlotte Martin
(release date: 12 September 2006)
by Jules H.
18 August 2006
Stromata is defined as 'the connective tissue framework of an organ, gland, or other structure as distinguished from the tissues performing the special function of the organ or part; the spongy, colorless framework of a red blood cell or other cell.' After listening to 'Stromata,' singer/songwriter Charlotte Martin's latest CD, it makes perfect sense why she called the CD what she did. Each of the songs on this amazing CD is it's own 'organ' if you will and it's held together by this connection named Charlotte Martin. It can also describe the relationships that these songs talk about, the different kinds of connections that make up our lives, keep us going, keep us together and bring life to us.
The title track and first single, Stromata, could not be a more powerful statement to where this CD is going. From the pounding percussion mixing perfectly with the decrescendo of Charlotte's piano, it feels like she's taking you down a much darker path, delving into the rabbit hole. It's such an intense song, from the way Charlotte sings it to the lyrics themselves that seem to describe a most complicated relationship where love takes a turn to the dark side...what love mixed with a bit of insecurity makes you do. 'I only meant to say it once, but it's too late/i'm into you and out again/the rotted love manipulates me...' Such a powerful song. I love this song and what is to follow just flows perfectly. Cut the Cord comes on strong with more percussion, almost tribal sounding. I hear so many different kinds of percussion in this song (i think i even hear a wine-cork pop sound via Charlotte? '...and we go up...' :)). And it mixes and builds. 'Turning torture into love.' It's a relationship that just goes round and round and it's just the bits and pieces of what could be that is keeping it going. Hanging on...for...something. The lyrics are dark, the beats and drums and percussion just hammer the mood home. It's totally in your face song! Drip follows and it's one of my most favorite songs on the CD. Charlotte has a way of painting a picture, not just with her lyrics but with the tempo and just how the song 'sounds.' My ears love her. :) She permeates your senses totally and this song is a perfect example. The lilting piano, big loopy drums, the rhythm of it, the drawn out, kinda slow tempo, the beats and the very suggestive lyrics...it is an incredibly sexy, beautifully dark song. 'Jawbone clench a little drip-drip drench some more attention, honey, put your hand in my hand...' It's a love and a lover song, and goes through all the feelings and at times insecurities and openness that comes in that moment. It's a pretty amazing song. Which brings me to another of my most favorite songs on the CD...it may be my favorite actually. Little Universe. The first moment I heard it, I loved it. There is no piano. It's electronic, processed beats: bass and drum loop. It's AMAZING. It's a heavy, dark 'sounding' song...it's the feeling of uncertainty, of promises and the hope that comes from them and it's like a plea to see reality, and what is true. Does that make sense? If anyone knows the song 'Shake the Disease' by Depeche Mode, I feel like 'Little Universe' is it's darker, updated companion. 'Baby, please dont lose/hope for me/dont choose/over these half truths over our little universe.' I love this song, immediately and completely. The lyrics, the complexity of the emotion and the beats that swirl around and create this amazing trance-like wall of sound. With Civilized, Charlotte is r-o-c-k. :) We've got the drums, guitars and keyboard/synth going furiously full tilt. The tone changes from what you've heard previously and this song turns up the volume. 'You've got some devotional for pain/ and me/ Can't we keep this civilized?'' she angrily pleas. This song rocks. Hopeless Attempt goes back to a more organ-ic Charlotte. :) 'How'd this tear drop, start a fire/Must have thought about you...' It's such a beautiful, achingly melancholy song. Almost a lullaby of sadness and uncertainty of love and checked desires. Charlotte turns it back up with Four Walls. This version is slightly different from the version released on the EP, 'Veins.' It's shorter and just as awesome. ;) One of my favorite Charlotte Martin songs and I'm happy it's on this CD. Inch (previously 'Inch Away from Heaven') and Keep Me In Your Pocket are two more familiar songs that flow very well on the CD. These songs shift the tone of the CD, marking a shift in styles as well. This 'side' of the CD seems more Charlotte and her piano. Yet, there are still elements of electronic in there that give the songs a more ambient kind of sound. These songs were previously only played live a handful of times so it's wonderful to have these faithful, recorded versions. 'Inch' is gorgeous. The lyrics are so beautiful they hurt: 'We're so close and far from this/ Am I an inch away from heaven...' A love that was not to be. 'Keep Me In Your Pocket' is a live favorite. Drum beat and piano with layers of Char backing vocals. Love, lust and desire never sounded so cool. Speaking of cool, Pills is next. There's a pill for all that ails you! Charlotte, piano, and some great orchestration with some interesting noises. I love the percolating sound. The song is so unexpected and almost tongue-in-cheek, yet there's something serious going on...because pills don't fix everything. It makes me think of 'Sara Goldfarb' in the movie, 'Requiem for a Dream.' 'Bah-bah-bah-bah-bah.' So catchy. :) With Just Before Dawn, Charlotte is in full operatic mode, singing a German opera. An interlude to clean the palette after the full meal that came before, if you will. All the amazing electronic and experimental beats and heavy lyrics had to come from somewhere. It seems as if Charlotte goes back to her roots, her voice being the main instrument, accompanied by her piano and a cello as well as some ambient kind of sound of wind. Charlotte's crystal clear voice will blow you away. And the song, the piano chords, actually does 'sound' like dawn, the sun rising. The Dance follows with Charlotte's voice and percussion. It sounds kind of like a waltz with voice and percussion, that kind of beat and tempo. And the layered backing vocals are very cool; like a modified fugue where Char calls and repeats/answers. The song and the lyrics feel so stripped bare...the beat and the lyrics feel more and more insistent. Love it. Redeemed closes out the CD perfectly. Finally, a recorded version, and it's amazing, beautiful and faithful to the version you remember hearing live. I love the backing vocals, the layers. It's just such a positive song...and it rounds out this CD and all it contains, all the words, the melancholy and sadness, all the emotions, all the sounds, perfectly. "In all the black, in all the grief, I am redeemed.' Indeed.
'Stromata' flows perfectly. All these connections between the songs translates to the songs themselves. The lyrics are so key to it. It definitely tells a story as a whole, and yet each song can easily stand alone. Charlotte has definitely moved to a more electronic sound which I personally love. She has found some amazing beats on this CD. I suppose you can further break down the connection in the CD through the way the first half sounds more electronic, heavier beats and processed sounds, while the second half is more organic, showing that Charlotte has not completely abandoned what came before. There is definitely something for everyone but it's all connected. And Charlotte has taken her lyrics to a new level. She hits you right in the heart and soul with this one...much more complex to the point where whatever personal emotions and feelings that went into creating the lyrics can be open to interpretation by the listener (see? i just did that with this long review! :)). That's what I love about Charlotte's lyrics: You can take the songs and make them your own. That's the connection, the relationship that binds us together; the musician, her music and how it all relates and can relate to us all in some important way.
'Is this the end and the beginning?'
With this awesome collection, connection, of songs called 'Stromata,' it is most definitely the beginning of a new, exciting, amazing journey for Charlotte Martin and all of us listening with open hearts, minds and ears. This is a natural, inevitable progression of Charlotte's sound and it's filled with excitement and great promise. Thanks to Charlotte for her music.She has succeeded in connecting her music, everything she's ever done, and the people she has touched with her music into this amazing CD, 'Stromata.'
'Stromata' will be released on September 12, 2006. Be sure to pick up your copy where CDs and digital music are sold.
all photos on this page by Erin Russell