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CD: Bitch 'n' Monk - we are peering over | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Bitch 'n' Monk - we are peering over

CD: Bitch 'n' Monk - we are peering over

Debut album from vocalist/flautist duo both charms and bewitches

'Listeners can follow as their disengaged, running-dog lifestyles are dissected'

Bitch ‘n’ Monk is a duo of London singer and guitarist Heidi Heidelberg and Colombian flautist Mauricio Velasierra. They make work of uncompromising novelty - dense but exhilarating collages of soaring vocals, restless guitar and intricate, percussive flute, spiced with loops and effects. It sounds as though there are at last four of them, and although the pair’s commitment to their own sound is palpable, their idealism lives happily alongside much passion, humour and melody, which makes the listening experience more charm than offensive.

Their first LP, Fulafalonga, was widely admired two years ago, and this, their first full-length release, picks up where their previous record left off, in not only an unmistakable sound-world of their own, but in many ways, their own genre. Andean punk opera? Existentialist hip-hop? The lyrics, like the music, are all-original - a Bitch ‘n’ Monk cover is a contradiction in terms - and are substantial pieces of writing in themselves; part meditation, part poem, part essay, they combine direct political comment (opening song “Mother Shipton’s Wayno” laments “creatures dying/leaders waging war”) with more existential exploration of a kaleidoscope of contemporary ills. Heidelberg is particularly angry about the listless avarice of contemporary consumer culture. “Yeah you’re alive/But who would you die for?” she sings on “Moolah”: “You drip dry by the window/You’re lifestyle’s in a limbo.” It’s pungent, engaging, compelling work.  

The echoes span John Lydon to Thomas Adès

The duo’s on-the-nose politics places them in a distinguished line of protesting outsider musicians, from Kurt Weill to the Sleaford Mods, but their musical finesse enables them to charm as well as batter an audience. Although their literary heft requires extensive narrative passages in songs of five or six minutes, Heidelberg’s quasi-operatic vocals are entrancing, and her control of volume and tone, especially at the delicate end of her range, is breathtaking. The echoes span John Lydon to Thomas Adès.  

It’s angry, and in places bitter, and musically the sound bristles as much as it seduces. It won’t work for everyone. Yet the overriding impression is of wonder, and a beautiful commitment to experimentation and novelty. It’s also beautifully presented, with full song texts on colourful, CD-shaped cards, so listeners can follow as their disengaged, running-dog lifestyles are dissected. Compulsory listening for execs turning the handle of the music-industry sausage machine.

@matthewwrighter

It’s angry, and in places bitter, and musically the sound bristles as much as it seduces

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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