Cat Power’s am­a­teur­ish an­i­mal magic

WAN­DERER

The Daily Telegraph - Review - - THE CRITICAL LIST - By Neil McCormick

Cat Power Domino

Chan Mar­shall has been mak­ing mu­sic un­der the name Cat Power for 25 years. She’s a mav­er­ick singer-song­writer who doc­u­ments pain and joy, strug­gle and re­cov­ery, with a qui­etly sear­ing in­ten­sity. Wan­derer is her 10th al­bum and the first on her new la­bel, Domino.

Mar­shall claims her pre­vi­ous la­bel, Mata­dor, the re­spected US in­de­pen­dent, re­jected Wan­derer, and asked her to record it again. To demon­strate where she was go­ing wrong, an ex­ec­u­tive help­fully played her an Adele al­bum, and told her that was how a record was sup­posed to sound. As crass as that may seem, I can’t help feel­ing that the un­named Mata­dor ex­ec­u­tive had a point.

Wan­derer is un­pol­ished and un­der­pow­ered, more like a series of demos than a fin­ished al­bum. Pro­duc­tion (by Mar­shall her­self) is min­i­mal: ba­sic guitar, tin­kly pi­ano and soft voices are oc­ca­sion­ally sup­ported by frankly rather pedes­trian drums and a plod­ding bass. At times you can hear tape hiss amid the creak­ing of pi­ano ped­als and other am­bi­ent noise. Frankly, I doubt Adele her­self could get this into the pop charts, not even with Ed Sheeran on back­ing vo­cals and a freestyle rap by Kanye West.

Which all misses the point en­tirely. Mar­shall is a per­former who com­pels you to focus, to en­ter her pri­vate world. And then, if you are quiet, you may start to re­ally hear her, and magic hap­pens. It’s in her hushed voice, the emo­tion she brings to ev­ery­thing she sings, the sense of hard­earned un­der­stand­ing burn­ing through some­times cryp­tic lyrics. She cre­ates a sub­dued at­mos­phere of such som­bre grav­ity that when you catch a bright melody or il­lu­mi­nat­ing phrase, it’s like a shaft of sun­light break­ing through storm clouds.

Point­edly, in the only track recorded after her break with Mata­dor, Mar­shall has en­ticed a real

She rein­vents a Ri­hanna power bal­lad as a gen­tle wisp of long­ing

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