Amy X Neuburg

(Other Minds)

Amy X Neuburg's aesthetic is without a doubt one of the most original and stimulating that I had the pleasure to encounter in the course of the last decade. But also one of the most communicative and captivating. Obviously, clichés don't live here - just sometimes, to be made fun of (but always with grace). But the music is so varied and witty, never closed unto itself, that for once I think I'm not asking for something impossible ("this music is absolutely original, extremely difficult, and asks for one's undivided attention - so why isn't it in the Top 40"?).

Utechma (1995) and Sports! Chips! Booty! (1999) are the albums by Amy X Neuburg & Men which are absolutely indispensable to appreciate her music. There was also a solo album: released in 1992, Songs 91 To 85 is a collection of songs recorded mostly solo, presented in reverse order. That album showed what (in a relative sense) could be called Amy X "baby pictures", but already an adequate presentation of a witty and innovative personality - by the way, did I mention that she possesses a technically prodigious voice that's also versatile and extremely personal, that she's an ace when it comes to programming and to the technical side of the albums she records? (See, I didn't even mention her prestigious studies and her multimedia collaborations.)

Given her aesthetical dimension, so personal, I was quite surprised when, during an e-mail interview in December 1999, she told me: "Then I hope to concentrate on an uncharacteristically serious and personal solo record". I followed the rest of the story on the web - her solo concerts in prestigious halls, with articles appearing in prestigious media (but - alas - not in the MTV world). Solo concerts where her highly ingenious musical apparatus - the building and layering of loops in real time, both natural and "impossible" vocals, drum machines, synths and effects - remained at the service of a narrative and of a musical dimension that's entertaining, sure - but always rigorous and highly personal.

This Is... An Is Production Sampler presented The Tattoo Song and Finally Black: two atypical works-in-progress. Though it had been announced as a departure of sorts, still Residue managed to surprise me just the same. Let's be clear: it's an extremely beautiful record starting from the first listening session - and Finally Black is immediately captivating (I'm talking about holding one's breath etc.). But it's really that "uncharacteristically serious and personal solo record". There are also songs - such as My Fuzzy Muse and Every Little Stain - which could have easily been featured on Sports! Chips! Booty!. But the initial The Tattoo Song, with those obsessive vocal loops, those lyrics in Latin, that agitated development...

Residue offers a timbral research and a variety of styles that have few peers - if any - in today's panorama (I bet somebody will mention Laurie Anderson, out of sheer intellectual laziness: it's only the concept of "storytelling", not really that common, that can sometimes make them appear similar - not the musical outcome, which is completely different). Residue is that rare a record that one can investigate and appreciate from beginning to end - from the tense atmosphere of Stone to the musical frivolity of My Fuzzy Muse, from the "impenetrability" of Atten-tion to the loop of the toothbrush in Every Little Stain to the dialogue of My God (the only track whose lyrics are not printed in their entirety in the booklet - obviously not a problem for those whose English is perfect... but is that word really "VOV"?!?), from Insomniac to the mysterious conversation of Life Stepped In, from the "celestial dialogue" of Those Heavy Gaps to the title-track. If the verbal meaning can sometimes be elusive - but never evasive - the musical narrative - chiaroscuri, complex layers, hard hits - is always inventive and inclusive.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2004 | April 14, 2004