Bléfari/Beridze/Gouzy/Pratter: 4 Women No Cry

While it might seem hard to believe given their radical sonic differences, 4 Women No Cry, the first in a planned annual series from Monika, was inspired by the infamously notorious album No New York (produced by Brian Eno, the collection includes four tracks from each of four bands: James Chance & The Contortions, Teenage Jesus And The Jerks, Mars, and D.N.A.). Having rediscovered the 1978 No Wave landmark, Monika label head Gudrun Gut chose to replicate its strategy as a way of showcasing Argentinean Rosario Bléfari, Tblisian Tusia Beridze, Parisian Èglantine Gouzy, and, from Vienna, Catarina Pratter.

Beyond showcasing their idiosyncratic creative sensibilities, the release draws attention to the underrepresented female perspective in music (and, through its titular allusion to “No Woman, No Cry,” also challenges Marley's implied notion that women, by definition, should be considered harbingers of sadness). Despite the album's political dimension, these women seduce more with the charm of their songwriting than berate the listener with militant rhetoric. Like No New York, 4 Women No Cry divides its twenty samplings amongst the four contributors who, despite their geographic disparity, share an affinity for intimate folk-pop enhanced by smatterings of eccentric electronic flavour.

Bléfari introduces the collection strongly. Singing a tale of separation and renunciation, she backs her endearingly delicate vocals in “Partir Y Renunciar” with chugging drum rhythms and adds further disorientation with street noises. Her interest in field elements extends to “Nunca,” where the clang of a bike bell and fuzz guitar darkens the song's sombre mood, and the lilting “Melodia” where serenading melodies are backed by steel drums at a midway carnival. Goslab associate Beridze (aka tba) provides a succinct snapshot of her diverse talents (on fuller display in her recent max.Ernst album Annulé) with sparkling keyboard-based pieces, many of them featuring her hushed, oft-spoken voice. Instrumentals like “Late,” a vignette of keyboard starbursts and ripples, rub shoulders with vocal cuts like the gentle electro-pop of “Wound” where she wraps her twilight whisper around trilling keyboards. Gouzy contributes eccentric pieces like the fragment “Eglantine Longe,” a pairing of French voice garble and “Sweet Dreams” cellos, and “Nurse Song,” a relaxed, organ-based nursery rhyme vignette whose English vocal suggests a cross between Zeebee and Yoko Ono. Pratter provides both miniatures and songs, such as the minimalist fragment “Johny Isoläschn,” with its clicking funk beats and blurry swirls, and the more ambitious “Dreamin Of Love,” a grimy slice of synth-based electro-pop featuring Pratter's goth-tinged vocals. Belying its title, her lethargic dirge “Stronger Than Before” seems on the perpetual verge of expiration, and makes for a curiously brooding choice with which to end the album. Interestingly, while the four artists' songs clearly differ from one another, their simpatico styles and sensibilities unify the album, despite the separate presentation of their material.

Admittedly, the album makes a stronger cumulative impression than when pieces are broached individually. Heard in isolation, many sound more like experimental vignettes than full-fledged melodic songs; brevity too militates against their leaving a lasting impression. And occasional weak moments surface, like Bléfari's “Vidriera Chilena,” for example, an instrumental filled with noisy field elements that adds little to the album. Yet 4 Women No Cry also wholly succeeds in realizing the goals it sets out for itself by convincingly showcasing the unique talents of its four female participants.

June 2005