Nearly four years after the gloriously ragged, primal nightmares of Black Hole Heaven, Hannah Marcus returns to caress the shadows and edges of a forgotten America with Desert Farmers. Marcus is accompanied by a host of fellow travelers including members of Godspeed You Black Emperor!, while author Rick Moody co-wrote two songs. But the vision is Marcus'. Walking out from the safety, the cacophony, on Black Hole Heaven, the lush melancholy songscapes of Faith Burns and the American Gothic overtones of her earliest recordings, Desert Farmers is woven through with a tenderness and sense of betrayal that only reveal themselves in small spaces, more often than not in the solitary moments spent in front of a mirror. The mix is spare there, some horns are woven through "Purple Mother" amid the piano bass and shimmering drums. On "Strip Darts," Godspeed's Efrim uses his electric guitar to lend an erratic, nearly off-the-wall sense of suffocating atmosphere to the carefully placed violin, acoustic guitar, and double bass that tie themselves into a glorious, sensual, faltering knot of lilt and languor. But it is on "Hairdresser in Taos," and "Laos," with Marcus' trademark, idiosyncratic piano tone, that the quark strangeness of her musical vision is married most perfectly to her lyrical revelations. In these songs, peopled with individuals haunted by dislocation, regret, and a distinct lack of choices, which they seem to accept without question as destiny, despite attempts to transcend them, Marcus opens the door to a universe we seldom see -- or, in most cases, want to see -- with a kind of empathy and tenderness that is not only uncommon, it is heroic. Her sonic universe is tenuous, but tense, full of tension and release. But on "Beloved," with words written by a nursing home resident, Marcus offers us, via hers and Efrim's entwined electric guitars scored around a lonesome violin, the only kind of love song really possible for such characters who are always gone, always removed, always left: ."..I know why the North Country is frozen/It has been trying to preserve your memory/I know why the desert burns with fever/It wept too long without you/On hands and knees the ocean begs at the beach/And falls at your feet/I have to honor the mirror of the earth/You have taught her well how to be beautiful." This is underscored by "Purple Mother," where the sounds of a distant Doc Pomus-inspired rhythm and blues are layered into a shuffling tarantella dirge, and a set of lyrics that open wide the hearts that long with the love of the left behind and betrayed. This is a naked record, one that is scathingly beautiful and sensual, one whose many textures are wound about its songs with vision and the vulnerability of not only empathy but brokenness, too. This is the only kind of singer/songwriter music possible anymore, and we are fortunate to have it. Certainly Marcus is courageous in her reportorial and confessional tomes, but she is also a Lover, and one who wears her burning heart as a badge of honor: tarnished, unflinching, and broken enough to be open to truth no matter how harsh or tenuous.
Performance CreditsHannah Marcus Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Piano,Harmonium,Vocals,Vibes,fender rhodes,Shortwave Radio
Thierry Double Bass
Efrim Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals,Shortwave Radio
Nadia Moss Handwriting
Will Glass Drums
Brian Highbloom Horn
Raymond Background Vocals
Technical CreditsHannah Marcus Composer
William Ross Composer
Nadia Moss Artwork
Rick Moody Composer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Desert Farmers based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
This is an amazing record of textures and visions. The intensity of loss in the lyrics is matched by the beautiful analogue playing of the Godspeed! guys and Hannah Marcus herself. Without a doubt one of the best albums to be released in the last year.