During the five year recording hiatus between Bad Poetry and Sudden Exposure to Light / Comfort, singer/songwriter Rebecca Pidgeon resumed her career as an actress and experienced a two-year bout with writer's block. She emerged to scale the Sisyphean mountain of the blank page with two very different yet related albums in one. Sudden Exposure to Light, produced by Thomas "Doveman" Bartlett, was largely performed by the pair with an array of keyboards, samplers, and drum programs. By contrast, Comfort was produced and engineered by longtime associate Fernando Perdomo and performed by her regular band.
Sudden Exposure's noirish, jazzy, carnivalesque opener, "Underwater Boys," was inspired by Alfonso Cuarón's Y Tu Mamá También, a revelatory film about desire and intimacy as two young men sexually engage with an older woman and one another. Its sensual lyrics and humid mix acknowledge that these forces can (at least temporarily) erase even the most stringent societal boundaries, and more often than not, create irrevocable change: "...In the hotel we wrote our names/Nothing ever will be the same/Deeper than the things we know/On the road to a nowhere land...." "Circus Delirium" has kinship with the nocturnal, experimental pop of Lodger-era David Bowie and the Night of Your Life period of Chris Connelly. "MKUltra" -- titled for the infamous CIA-developed mind control program -- is an elegiac post-punk waltz with gorgeously layered atmospherics and backing vocals. The drama in "Stick Out My Tongue" and the sad regality of "200 Million Miles from Hawthorne" reveal Pidgeon's unwillingness to surrender her complex narrative to easy harmonic or production tropes as she bravely uncovers hidden psychological states.
Comfort, by contrast, is more strident. Pidgeon's passion for the expressive power of indie rock is palpable. She knows how to use an electric guitar, stack vocal harmonies, and provide tension via kick drum, snare, and a bass. The punky title cut could have been recorded in the late 1970s, with its searing take on depression. The slow, surf-like tremolo drift of "The Little Death" juxtaposes the colloquialism for an orgasm with the toxicity of an obsessive, unhealthy relationship. When Pidgeon sings "Loving you is suicide/There is no place left to hide/My desire/Where will you carry me," she reveals a Bataille-ian understanding of obsession as has having little to do with romance or affirmation. "Your Only Son" closes the set by evoking regret, desolation, and helplessness alongside an admittedly doomed desire for redemption. Blues, sultry rock, and angular pop meld seamlessly around her male subject as he recounts a life of loneliness, brokenness, and misplaced desire, desperate to fill a God-sized hole.
Pidgeon's period of writer's block ultimately gifted her songwriting with a more expressionistic sonic palette for lyric inspiration to build on. These 20 songs are vulnerable and open -- utterly strong in their chance taking. They're powerful, evocative expressions of emotional, psychological, amorous complexity and contradiction, all of which she responds to with an emphatic "Yes!" Though quite different aesthetically, Sudden Exposure to Light / Comfort feed one another symbiotically, and by glorious extension, Pidgeon and the listener.