Christina Carter
Masque Femine
Many Breaths Press #20

A new hand-assembled and limited to only 80 signed and numbered copies CD-R, Masque Femine represents one of the most radically beautiful and confusing releases from Christina Carter to date. Hand packaged in fold-out paper sleeves that feature original artwork (everyone is different), a hand-written track listing, a magazine insert and tracing paper and pencil inlays. The music is all based around Christina's interpretations of a clutch of old-time standards and ballads, none of which she had actually heard at the time of the recording. Working from simple lyric transcriptions, she moulds spontaneous melodies and intricate guitar stylings from the disarticulated raw material of 17 tracks like "Love Letters In The Sand", "Memories Of You", "I Fall In Love Too Easily", "End Of A Love Affair", "Quiet Nights", "All Alone" etc in a way that is completely different but just as radical as Derek Bailey's Standards and Ballads recordings. The atmosphere is as up-close and intimate as her last few Many Breaths releases, with some tracks so phonetically deconstructed they consist of virtually nothing but strained, breathy syllables suspended above a huge void of throat. The more emotionally distressed readings come closest to Jandek's all-vocal trilogy, especially the claustrophobic diaristic environs of Put My Dream On This Planet, but elsewhere the closest parallel would be Patty Waters at her most formally advanced, space-whispering her way through jazz standards that combine soft, velvet settings and distressed vocal breakdowns. Her guitar playing is gorgeous and super-minimal, supporting her spontaneous channelling of song-forms with two-chord downs and spectral, minor-key substitutions. Every package comes with a cut-out shot of a female model from a fashion magazine and the combined context seems to be designed to raise questions over the nature of beauty (as something always essentially 'beyond' and therefore only fully 'knowable' via proxy), manufactured versus spontaneous female personas, the nature of the aura etc, all rendered with that amazing lightness of touch and genuine emotional weight that accompanies all of Christina's greatest work. Hands-down album of the year thus far and highest possible recommendation. Already completely sold out at source.