Of all the artsy fartsy solo/ensemble projects I’ve heard recently, this one is my favorite. Sow is the project of British singer/performance artist, Anna Wildsmith, in collaboration with her “Boys” (heavy hitters from the Experimental/Industrial music genre including members of Test Department, Pig, and KMFDM). On Sick , Wildsmith introduces a collage of musical elements loosely thrown into an Industrial mixed-bag. It’s pretty freaking scary, to tell you the truth. Wildsmith portrays herself as a formidable adversary in matters of the heart: at her most devastating, she’s the Siren whose song lures one to certain death; at best she’s the scorned lover who got even, or better yet, got on with her life. Her three collaborations with Pig’s Raymond Watts (known for his dark, scornful, violent musings) provide Sow with an appropriate male alter ego. Watts, who also produced the album, lends his signature music-for-films quality (think MGM musicals meet HP Lovecraft) to whatever he touches, enhancing Wildsmith’s talent as a first-rate poet and lyricist. In a refined, spoken word delivery, Wildsmith alternatingly purrs and spits out lyrics along the lines of “I fight the urge to steal your skin/to soothe mine, which is blazing” on the alluringly creepy “Ssik.” The lurching, industrial beat of “Egohead” (one of three songs sung in French) creates a propulsive, menacing rhythm as mental images of goose-stepping storm troopers trample though your psyche, leaving muddy footprints in their wake. “Wedge” — a most unusual break-up song — equates the end of a relationship to “The axe that splits/wedged into its stump.” Ouch, love hurts! Beyond this powerful trilogy, Martin King of Test Department lays down a uncompromisingly funky groove under the political manifesto Wildsmith calls “Working With God.” Equally conspicuous are two joint efforts with Euphonic, including “Strip,” which steers toward the land of ambience before veering off on the road to what could well be the first industrial cabaret music for strip tease! Anna Wildsmith and her boys step about as far off the beaten path as you can and still keep your brain inside your skull. Don’t call it industrial, this is Artcore.
Invisible Records, P.O. Box 16008, Chicago, IL 60616; http://www.invisiblerecords.com