BY ONE OF THE NIGHT
You can stomp, jackbooted, into the dark places in your psyche, or you can do what Mary Rapp does, and flit between the shadows; observe the abyss without plunging in. Rapp, a jazz and free-improvising bassist/cellist and a composer for theatre, here brings forth her inner singer-songwriter, albeit rejecting the idiom’s accumulated cliches. Her songs neither soothe nor reassure, but enter the world with something of the blood, tears, terror and wonder of a newborn.
Those with long memories may find her voice carrying some of the urgency, disquiet, brittleness and plaintiveness that Nico’s did 50 years ago. It is a combination of qualities that inclines you to lean forward to catch the words, even as you are enthralled by the jittery soundscapes and accompaniment in which the songs variously boil and wallow. Rapp’s cello (sometimes multi-tracked) is joined by the chameleon-like guitar of Carl Dewhurst and the drumming of Simon Barker, whose work is almost as much akin to a dramatist’s as a musician’s, whether saying little or nothing, or radically intensifying a song’s narrative, as if pushing it to the edge of that abyss. A startling debut.