Myshkin

Bar Centro, Wednesday September 22, 2010  



Words are inadequate for this one. Once in a while you come across a performer of luminescent brilliance. So it is with Myshkin, no longer an urban hillbilly (she's spent the last few years building a house in the wilds of Oregon). She cast a spell with her assured singing and guitar-playing, conferring the intimacy of a living-room to the space downstairs at Bar Centro in central Manchester (actually nice and cosy, with it's wood-panelling and temporary carpet). 

Myshkin's songs take unconventional forms and contain unconventional chords, and are strange and marvellous beauties. She sings with gradual crescendo and decrescendo, stressing a word or phrase for emphasis, and then trailing away to a whisper, which is even more compelling, because whispers command attention more than shouts. Very few singers follow the cadences of speech so faithfully. Such deep emotions, however, are only expressible in song. We listeners became like Ancient Greeks participating in the mysteries: passively soaking up profundity, until it came time to applaud: almighty whoops were our chief contribution to the unfolding human drama. 

Emotions were complex, rueful, bitter and proud. Songs may be about an ex-neighbour from New Orleans, rebuilding her house after Katrina only for it to be destroyed over by Rita.  There was a version of Billie Holiday's Yesterdays, improved and amplified by Myshkin's own moving lyric in the middle section, and the autobiographical Ruby Warbler,  a generous and clear-eyed recollection of stormy youth. The songs were mostly new, and there was nothing from the last (Sigh Semaphore: ageing now, from 2006, and with very short running-time, but everything by Myshkin is indispensable). So the signs are that Myshkin's next album is going to be wonderful. For conviction, sensitivity and truth, this was one for the ages. What, despite Myshkin's head-cold and a PA system that turned her into a grunge artist for the night? Yes and yes. Myshkin is the best. 

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