It's tempting to write that these gentle, softly sung pieces will sound best in a candle-lit room on a long winter's night, the flickering flames casting unusual shapes across the walls whilst a coal fire burns brightly. But one of the first times I heard this album was when I was driving along a narrow, seemingly never-ending eighteen mile country lane that dissected some Scottish woodland which separated the main road and a quiet Loch-side village. I may have had written directions in front of me, but I've got to admit I'd long since started to wonder just where the hell I was going. And somehow Germano's quiet, slightly eerie voice was perfect for this journey.
In The Maybe World opens beautifully with The Day. I should warn you, however, that if you don't like this track, then you may as well switch off now, because The Day pretty much typifies the album as a whole. If you do like it though, are you in for a treat! Too Much Space follows and is even better as Germano sings…
In the morning without a sound
and the stirring of dreams around
then you wake up
he wasn't there again
…over a pretty piano before some kids voices burst in to eerie effect on a
number that occasionally brings John Cale's contribution to The Velvets to
mind. It's helluva track. But I could say the same for pretty much everything
here. Indeed, I'll resist the urge to use the word "melodic" ad nauseum, because
I'd be using it to describe all twelve tracks. So I'll just mention a few highlights
starting with Moon In Hell and its haunting violin solo. Golden Cities is
another worthy of mention, opening as it does with a tinkly piano and some
breathless whistling, leaving you feeling that you're listening to some particularly
sinister music box. A similar effect can be found on In The Land Of Fairies,
a cyclical tinkly piano riff with Germano nervously telling us that…
Somebody saw a monster
It was real mean
…before going on to tell us that the monster was the worst you've ever seen. It's only then that Germano adds…
Scary little joker
It was only me
It's hypnotic stuff. The slightly unsettling title track, which is somehow reminiscent of Julian Cope's beautiful Head Hang Low, is another highlight whilst Red Thread builds up to find Germano sounding almost angry as she relates a "Go to hell" / "Fuck you" argument, before both parties concede defeat with a "I love you" / "love you too" reconciliation.
The album ends with After Monday, surely one of the strongest tracks here. Germano does her best to sound upbeat when she announces…
Hey hey it's just a normal day
I was so sure that love would be the cure.
But you know there's going to be a "but". And sure enough there is. Indeed, there's something disturbing about the backing noises, and Germano's tone is such that when she says, "When you wake up it'll be ok", it made me think that I'm not entirely sure that I'd actually want her to fall love with me. Because for all Germano's gentle beauty and wispy voice, on this evidence you'd never be sure what she'd do if you left her. There's definitely something that makes you think that you might not want to leave your pets lying around unattended.
Of course, I'm not saying this album will appeal to everyone, and apart from
flippantly suggesting that depressed Kate Bush fans might like it, I'm not
entirely sure who I'd target as an audience. Mainly this is because the album,
with its head-on collision of soft, melodic, and beautiful with eerie, haunting,
and disturbing, has some unique qualities. And I don't use the world unique
Whatever, it's a class act.