wears the trousers magazine

rykarda parasol: for blood & wine (2009)
November 13, 2009, 2:09 pm
Filed under: album, review | Tags: ,


Rykarda Parasol
For Blood & Wine ••••

Rykarda Parasol is a self-professed purveyor of ‘rock noir’, a relatively young genre that can trace its creeping roots back to the more established sounds of Americana, Goth and even cabaret. Nick Cave and The Velvet Underground are cited as some of its progenitors, an allusion previously nodded to in Parasol’s 2005 mini album Here She Comes, with current contemporaries including the mighty Elysian Fields. Though her parentage is European – she’s half Polish, half Swedish – the dark eyed, blonde haired artist spent some formative years in Texas, the landscape of which served as her muse for 2006’s debut full-length, Our Hearts First Meet, and continues to shape her material with a countrified drawl and twang in this expertly crafted follow-up.

For Blood & Wine begins with an indicative lack of foreplay, darting straight into themes that persist throughout. “The road is long with treachery,” Parasol cries out in her heavy, distinctive baritone, accompanied by mournful violins and evoking the kind of archaic warning proverbs that haloed departing travellers of old. Her guttural vocals shift between the dirty, poetic ruminations of Lydia Lunch and the drawling slurs of Johnny Cash, though there are also elements of Nico and even Kim Gordon in her brash, revelatory notes. Like these greats, Parasol weaves her tunes with a morose glory, taking her part-sung, part-told narratives through twisting, downtrodden alleyways, writhing and exalting at equal turns in her troubling tales.

Though Parasol’s guitar provides the bluesy, rock-edged backbone of the album’s arrangements, an almost constant stream of violins and piano adorn the songs, creating an elegiac wreath around the dramatic, cinematic atmosphere. In this way, she has created perfect, crashing backdrops to the dark biographical ballads she excels at. Rather than shrink in the face of her demons, Parasol embraces them with a hearty slap of welcome or a wry tip of a gin-slopped glass, depending on her mood. ‘One For Joy!’ is a dark, shuddering laugh of an alehouse song, similar to the inebriated debauchery and recklessness of ‘Drinking Song’, while ‘Covenant’ details sexual and religious imagery into one explicit hymn. Elsewhere, ‘For All Men Kill’ and ‘…The Thing They Love’ show her meditative, soul-wrenching instrumentals at their best.

‘You Cast A Spell On Me’ is epic in its crepuscular, orchestral cabaret, and certainly one of the strongest songs in this armoury of missiles, though almost by accident for it’s in this self-conscious flamboyancy that Parasol’s vocals find enough space to unleash their full dexterity. Sweeping over scales and volumes with the natural grace of wings in flight, her old-soul drawl spans out – part gospel cry, part curse – a litany of glitteringly beautiful, knife-edge poetics. Album closer ‘Swans Will Save’ punctuates these tragic, passionate proceedings as a sweet, almost nonsensical ditty seemingly sung by a small child. It’s hard to know what to make of this unexpected ending, which sits in silence until the one minute mark, though it would seem prudent to assume its innocent jangling serves as an antidote after so much adult anguish.

Brutal in its relentless darkness and visceral in its subject matter, For Blood & Wine is an album that moves its audience mercilessly through desire and pain. Derivative yet entirely genuine, Parasol gives her scarred tales a poetic, salty beauty, ripping away any false placations with a steady, stern hand. Drowning magnificently in its own swells of gloom and angst, giant enough to consume, her music puts us always in capricious, deck-shifting territory, the experience compounded by a running time which creates the feeling that safety, the end, is nowhere in sight. Perhaps ‘Swans Will Save’ is meant to be our bright and innocent reward at the end of the voyage; either way, misery, betrayal and loss have rarely sounded so beautiful.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
UK release date: 20/10/09; www.myspace.com/rykardaparasol


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Wow, your eloquence put my review of this album to shame! Interesting how we highlighted different tracks, but “Ode to Joy!” drew us both in. So glad to see Rykarda getting more press this time around. Her album will definitely be on my year end list. Next time your label puts out an all-female compilation, you should ask Rykarda to join in. :)

Comment by muruch

Thank you kindly Muruch. It would be fab to have Rykarda on a WTT compilation

C x

Comment by Charlotte

Thank you both for excellent and well written reviews! Best, Dianna (Rykarda’s manager)

p.s. listen online Sunday night from 7 to 10 pm PST to Live 105 http://www.live105.com. Rykarda will be played on Aaron Axelsen’s Soundcheck!!

Comment by Dianna

[…] Room 7½ [4/5] 93 Diane Birch – Bible Belt [3.5/5] 92 Rykarda Parasol – For Blood & Wine [4/5] 91 Simone White – Yakiimo […]

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