Katie Jane Garside – Lalleshwari: Lullabies In A Glass Wilderness

Katie Jane Garside
Lalleshwari: Lullabies In A Glass Wilderness

KatieJane Garside first captured the music public’s attention as the frontwoman of Daisy Chainsaw, with her wide-eyed, wild-haired, insane persona, all done up in deconstructed shift dresses, flowers in her hair, clutching a teddy bear, all manic panic, flailing away at shows, shouting out her distressed vocals to the brink of a breakdown, displaying her bruises, both physical and emotional.

After Daisy Chainsaw went under, KatieJane continued musically with her (glam, punk, blues, lullabies) band QueenAdreena (which also features Crispin Gray, who was a key member of Daisy Chainsaw), with the songs (musically, vocally, and lyrics-wise) alternating between erotically-charged fireworks and a more contemplative innocence. Most recently, KatieJane (a multi-faceted artist, if there ever was one) has started up the band Ruby Throat, mining the low-key, ghostly, alt-country sound.

KatieJane’s solo album Lalleshwari: Lullabies In A Glass Wilderness is a collection of her 4-track demos and, as such, sounds a bit unfinished, like a dress with the stitching showing, but it works as a bridge between the softer songs of QueenAdreena and Ruby Throat. KatieJane takes a breath and calms down on this 16-song album, delving into subjects that are familiar to her based on her work in previous bands, foremost that of broken ‘baby dolls’, lost children, lovers’ deaths, and the destruction of relationships.

This album is neither sweepingly angelic or devilishly tormented – it’s more of a creep through the wild weeds, but it’s worth it for fans of KatieJane Garside’s work. She retains her ‘little-girl-lost’ vocal delivery on many tracks, but also adds different touches to some of the songs, including deep space sounds on “darkangel”, and exotic strings and low vocals on “lost upon the flame”. Some numbers, like “Marybell (rides into town on pig)”, wouldn’t be out of place on Ruby Throat’s debut album, The Ventriloquist.

This album starts off with the experimental “genica pussywillow”, all loops of bright, glass-blown notes, a languorous, warped, carousel-like sound, and KatieJane’s high-register, expressive vocals being played slowly in reverse, so that the meaning to the lyrics cannot be divined.

That intro leads the way to “roadkill”, with KatieJane singing high and prettily against a human beatbox (akin to Bjork’s work on Medulla), attenuated keyboard notes that hover in a minor key, and a triangle that brightly tings at regular intervals. There is a hint of background static throughout the song, but the emphasis is on the sweetly warbled vocals, which are echoed and doubled on the verses, and, on the chorus, are accompanied by her high-flying, wordless wanderings, as she innocently delivers the killer line “Mother pick the pieces up, broken child…one who lost her right to roam.”.

KatieJane goes the gritty, swamp-blues route on “lesions in the brain”, her sing-talking vocals coming off gravelly and hoarse against a repeated loop of measured, but thumping drum beat and picked, acoustic guitar. She’s in story-teller mode, unspooling a yarn about two lovers, one of whom might be crossing that sane/insane threshold (“I heard a knock and the door was ajar and I opened and there was no one at all…lesions in the brain and I’m going insane this time…”). Then she crosses that threshold and takes on the persona of the “insane” one, her vocals devolving at one point into squawking chicken noises – and only KatieJane can make that sound frightening, and not silly.

“Marybell (rides into town on pig)” is another disquieting, story-telling song with ominous lyrics, thumping drum beat, acoustic guitar strum (that gets more intricate on the chorus), and an unchanging, mid-tempo pace. It comes off a bit drab after the previous tune, mainly because KatieJane sing-talks in a plain tone and isn’t her usual expressive self.

The hushed, ghostly lament “awaiting you” is of the PJ Harvey mold, solemnly hung with alternating, minor notes of a harpsichord sound and two disembodied vocal strands, one in a plainer in tone, and one that is higher and slightly echoed, as KatieJane sings “I swim the lake…I’m holding on, I’m still awaiting you”.

“Darkangel” darkly dazzles with its slowly sloping, deep-space booms and sprinkled-star sounds and slightly static, aero-vocals (“So incomplete when we sleep in deceit”) that are high and light on the verses, more straightforward on the chorus, and in sing-talking mode throughout.

KatieJane muses in a light, but melancholy tone on “sleepslikewolves”, a simple number with slow, plain guitar strum and cello notes.

The low-key vibe continues on “gaslight”, with xylophone-like notes played in a three-note loop, and vocals that are upfront, but whispered into the mic amid a background hiss of static. The song isn’t that cohesive and it rambles sans build-up (no verse, chorus, verse structure here), but KatieJane doubled vocals lines shine through, with one warbling tone wending around the other, plainer tone, and the tune finishes with a cold, spinning metal disc sound.

“too busy sinking” has an unsteady beat, with drawn-out accordion notes and KatieJane’s vocals sounding grainy and distorted as she emotes against the ploddingly-slow music. Her expressive vocals are the pull here, with her higher plaintive delivery on most vocal lines, and a lower register on the doubled vocals of some verses.

There is a fuzzy background sound in “puppylove”, as drawn-out keyboard notes and a human beat-box fill out the space, while KatieJane, in sweetly innocent mode, sings clearly and in a high register (sailing upwards on the ends of phrases) about her “Puppy sweet he licks my feet he keeps my hair oiled nice and neat…”, although the listener is to take it that the character is referring to her lover, and not an actual puppy dog.

“For you i hold my breath” is an introspective, dark, alt-country number that features KatieJane’s breathy, ethereal vocals, which aren’t typical of that genre. Fingers can be heard brushing over the strings of the strummed guitar as KatieJane lightly, but plaintively, sings “For you I hold my breath, for you I get undressed”.

The next song, “lost upon the flame”, is simply stunning, done in a totally different style than all that has come before, with its hypnotic, sinuous loop of low-sounding, Middle Eastern-tinged areo-guitar, and KatieJane’s vocals light and bird-like on the verses, but then changing to such a deeply low register on the chorus that it doesn’t even sound like her (maybe it isn’t?!).

The dynamically inert “subterranean values” is filled with an annoying, repetitive loop of a five-note run of a ‘telephone-blip’ sound, amid a ‘train-passing-by’ sound, and the verses have hushed, whispered vocals with KatieJane talking under some of them.

KatieJane reverts back to her ‘damaged princess’ incarnation (“She a princess in a ripped dress, lost little baby doll, got an angel for a witness, lady luck save us all”) for “In the birdcage part.1”, as the beginning music-box tinkle and crystal shard notes dissolve into a darker, carousel-ride vibe with booming, but unsteady drumbeat and KatieJane’s vocals coming into focus from a distance as she sighs “a baby breathed inside me, I’ve grown inside out…the mirror knows how to shame me”.

The lament “Justoneday of endlesslove” has so much empty aural space in it, with slow, ‘plunked-water-drop’ keyboard notes, and KatieJane sounding ghostly with her distant and slightly echoed wordless vocals emanating mournfully from the void, that it’s difficult to know whether the song is continuing, or has finally ended!

The last song, “handheld spoonfed”, seems like a continuation of the previous one, with just slow keyboard notes and KatieJane sing-talking simply “I’ll put the baby doll to bed, hand held and spoonfed, I stitch her wound…”…