Scout Niblett

The Calcination of Scout Niblett

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“Welcome to my self-made sweat box. This is where I take it all off. I've got to sweat it out, I'll cook those monsters out -- I'm not coming out of here until my soul appears” is a line that appears in the title track of The Calcination of Scoutt Niblett, and if there is a theme for this album, this is it. The word “calcination” refers to burning metals into calx -- the ashy substance that remains. It’s appropriate here. Since 2001, Niblett has used minimal trappings to get her songs across, usually just a guitar and some well-placed drums. She concentrates on rock essences that transfer emotion without contrivance or sonic affectation -- there is no excess here, nothing extra at all. Produced (again) by Steve Albini, Niblett has stripped everything to the barest: a distorted electric guitar underscores nakedly searing lyrics that sometimes get accented by primitive drums -- or not. Accompanied only by her guitar in “Bargin“ (sic), she allows her contralto to move up half an octave and sings as if she’s looking into her own dirty, cracked mirror: "And some may say, you're not a little girl anymore, but becoming a child is what I'm waiting for.” Rather than exploding, the track moves to the sing-song quality of a lullaby. These songs may not be catchy, but they are gripping. In every one of them there is a lyric that grabs the listener by the throat. There is no forced rage here; when it does come out, it’s natural and arresting. The feedback that introduces “Cherry Cheek Bomb” breaks the tension built up in the first four cuts, and allows the guitar to express what lyrics cannot, before beginning another plank-walking confessional that exits with a wailing guitar outro. The closer, “Meet and Greet,” describes her relationship to the music business with primitive flamenco guitar sketches on guitar, with feedback and shambolic drumming. It’s a raw self-examination as much as an indictment. Calcination is a harrowing, emotionally draining 51 minutes; it can’t be judged on anything but its essences lyrically and musically, making it an abundantly successful endeavor.

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