Karla Richardson


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This four-track EP is a collaboration of sorts. Detroit singer and songwriter Karla Richardson, formerly of American Mars, and New York writer and musician Dimitri Ehrlich recorded Richardson's vocals and some scratch guitar tracks over two holidays in 1998 and 1999. Ehrlich invited a group of other musicians to help him finish the instrumental roughs, and the completed recording was handed to Dave Feeny and his Tempermill studios to mix and master. Seemingly a very loose project, it sounds like anything but. Ehrlich's production accents the most beguiling elements about Richardson's writing and singing: the manner in which she delivers the gorgeous, simple expressionistic poetry that is her lyric style. She sings without exaggeration or extreme in dynamic or emotion. She's direct nonetheless; she allows for feelings and nuances in a song to emote from within its own body. The hooks are fabulous. Quirky and elegant, they are kissed by psychedelia, caressed by dreamy pop and rock, and graced with the intimate warmth of folk. Though Download is a shape-shifting mix of moods and colors, at times it seems as if no one else was to hear these songs, that they were to be sung out the window in the middle of the night to the moon or to the sun in the depths of an open solitary field in summer. While it's true that all four songs on this little record are rare and precious gems, "Bathe Yourself" is especially gorgeous. It's lithe acoustic guitar line, repeating itself over and again, literally slips through the middle the mix into the space next to her voice. Richardson sings, "Sometimes, the temperature is just right/and the texture the material gives/sometimes, exhaustion is alright/and the elegant distance waits...," an electric guitar enters, softly stuttering into the dreamy, hazy melody, and her voice doubles itself, turning the body of the tune into air: "...that's when the weight and the color blend into one/sometimes, the difference is just right/and the delicate nature breathes/that's when the pace and the whole thing fall together/bathe yourself/form yourself/wash yourself/in." The lyrics drip from her mouth like honey, her voice falls deeper into the sway of the guitars and the watery drift of her lyric. And then, as if pleasure and reality were to mix and weave themselves together, it ends without warning. No warning, no fade. No more words. The moment just inhabited crosses over into another without seam or even the notion of looking back. Any of the four "moments" on Download could have been chosen as examples. As songs, they offer glimpses of passages in time, passages in mood and in personal movement from one emotional space to another and one mind to the next. As pop songs they are entrancing because they are free of artifice and imitation. Being assembled as they were, there is no hint of falsity in song, deliver, or production. These aural paintings by Richardson, framed so tenderly and artfully by her friends, feel like they are more than pop songs, and that's what gives them their considerable weight. They display in 15 minutes all that that pop is capable of giving to the listener when offered purely and honestly: pleasure and delight that provide glimpses into a world that is, no matter how intimate, larger than your own. Download is a wonder.

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