One would be hard-pressed to think of a more quintessential go-to artisan for serene avant-pop than Lisa Papineau. She has swung her hammer in experimental theatre, producing/narrating films as well as soundtrack work but will be most well known for her own mold-breaking voice – which Tori Amos once declared to have “…the power of Bon Scott and yet the lyricalness in the voice of a reed instrument…” Papineau can possess an unmistakably hushed yet still-beating heart-in-hand vocal style, pioneering a sound that has helped define a spectrum of streamlined sub-emotion to independent music, with vocal timbres and melodies that are haunted and unsettling as much as they are earnestly heartbreaking. One may even know her voice before they know her name, as we almost couldn’t keep track of her prolific collaborations with, among them, AIR, M83, Jun Miyake, Anubian Lights, her appearances on the (Academy Award nominated) Pina, Watchman and Crow II soundtracks, as well as her own projects, early career PET (signed to Tori Amos’ IGLOO imprint), BIG SIR (her long running project with Mars Volta bassist Juan Alderete) and her self named group.
On her third and newest solo record, “Blood Noise,” Papineau has woven a intricate and brittle tapestry of her illustrious career’s culmination, where the nine songs successfully create their own microscopic world that runs a vein through each song’s respective atmosphere, resulting in an escapist’s fantasy who’s duality would effortlessly make a bloodshot appearance on “Morning Becomes Eclectic” after being up all night partying in dance hall. From the praiseful hope of “Little Light” to the ceremonial dirge of “Rainmaker,” Papineau remains expansive and unpredictable on a record who’s churning moods and unorthodox methods prove she is more than a vocalist merely “singing” on a song – it is her whole presence that assumes the role of the instrument.
With complications from her long time bout with MS, Papineau recorded parts of the album from bed, microphones and keyboards propped up and strewn across pillows. Recovering from cancer surgery in 2012, she put work on the album aside for a time, but with the new year, returned by degrees to lean deeper into synchronized themes of transformation, escape, or as she more eloquently states, “…Allowing the rain and the tears to break fast after a thousand of years of drought… letting the soul crack out of this broken jam jar.”
“ I very much wanted to make sure it was mostly first takes…” she says. “(With this approach) mistakes and off-key moments abound, but there is a kind of vulnerability in these shaky performances that is special…” That humbly said, there are also plenty of moments where it seems she’s grabbing you by the lapels, whispering grave statements that may be threats or promises, but determined nonetheless as she is on “Out For A Swim” where she affirms “…and now I’ve found the courage to return to the sea.” Indeed, all the songs on “Blood Noise” have a certain swelling undertow that seem to bubble up beneath the listener and envelop them in an earthy, electronic wash, directed by these multi-layered epiphanies and affirmations where we are treated to eye tearing beauty that shines in the shadows of decay.
And it is this fluidity spilled onto her palette, colors running and bleeding together, that makes “Blood Noise” a record almost the aural equivalent of Balinese dance; playful, while stoic and dramatic. The album, while created “holed-up” for the most part, also nods to the collaborative side of her career, with guest appearances by Big Sir’s Juan Alderete, former Pet partner, composer Tyler Bates (300), Crooked Cowboy (with whom Papineau has performed with for several years), Matt Embree and CGak of Me&LP and RX Bandits, as well as Nick Reinhart of Tera Melos, and Matthieu LeSenechal and Johan Guidou of her solo trio.