Elysian Fields - Queen Of The Meadow
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Elysian Fields
Queen Of The Meadow

After doing a little reading, I found out that according to mythology, the Elysian Fields are supposedly the place where those favored by the gods are sent after death. It's sort of a version of heaven, with the whole milk and honey thing going on, but judging by the sound of this group, there's something that's also perhaps a slightly bit sinister about them. Sounding a bit like Mazzy Star with a much darker edge and more of an appreciation for varied instrumentation, it's an album that tugs from several different genres and manages to pull it off most of the time.

Given all that, Queen Of The Meadow is probably the sexiest album I've heard this year. Of course, a large part of that has to do with singer Jennifer Charles' throaty, siren song vocals, but instrumentalist Oren Bloedow also manages to work some very interesting arrangements around them, turning in gothic-sounding string-laced tracks, rock infused jams (that don't work quite as well as the more sly sounding numbers) and haunting soundscapes for a fairly widely varied batch of music.

From the very first moments of the opening track, the group lets you know what you're getting into. A fluttering violin and piano mingle together and play off one another for sort of a chamber tuning session before they both drop off and Charles' vocals seem to melt on each syllable while an upright bass plunks along and the piano occassionaly adds a couple light twinkles to the rather drear (but oh so seductive) affair. The second track continues sort of the same feel, but with some organ and strummed guitar while Charles' vocals go from straight to distorted and echoed.

Things change a bit on the third track, and depending on how much you like the more orchestrated, slower pieces will depend on how much you like it. "Bend Your Mind." cranks up the electric guitar a bit and adds some wanky keyboards and thick bass to the mix. Overall, it still manages to work (albeit, throwing the rhythm of the album off a bit), but has a much different effect than the more sultry pieces. The group does head back to the darker, more subtle tracks, though, and "Rope Of Weeds" and the very eerie (and timely given the Halloween release date) "Fright Night." Bloedow even takes vocal duties on the mysterious sounding album titled track "Queen Of The Meadow" and his baritone croon is a nice offset to Charles.

As mentioned before, there are a few hiccups in the album provided by louder tracks that work more on riffs than sly-ness, but that's more of a stylistic personal preference as I think the album would have flowed a little bit better as a completely dark and seducto outing of twisted chamber pop. As it stands, though, it's still a solid release and even better here during the cold months when the wind is blowing and the dark is coming earlier.

rating: 7.510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00