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Paula Frazer 

A Place Where I Know: 4-Track Songs 1992-2002

Wednesday, Dec 3 2003
Along with the Naked Barbies' Patty Spiglanin, Paula Frazer has one of the most distinctive sets of pipes in the Bay Area (and in the greater realm of pop music, for that matter). Her singular voice has what a lot of singers' lack, namely range: It combines the guileless, bracing alto clarity of Patsy Cline, the mournful wail of Roy Orbison, and the crisp Appalachian austerity of the Carter Family. Add that to Frazer's poised songcraft, which evokes the grim territories of Nicks Drake and Cave. Having established herself in such erstwhile Bay Area outfits as Frightwig, Virginia Dare, and, especially, Tarnation, Frazer stepped into the foreground in 2001 with her solo album Indoor Universe, and has now followed it up with A Place Where I Know, a collection of home demo recordings.

Place continues the "western noir" ambience of the Tarnation recordings Gentle Creatures and Mirador, albeit in a much more unadorned fashion. Some old Tarnation favorites are (re-)presented in skeletal form: The gothic chiller "The Hand," previously heard as an ominous impending-storm rocker, sounds even more eerie and sinister in this slower, sparser incarnation; the aching "Game of Broken Hearts," also from the Tarnation catalog, appears as an enhanced video track.

But don't get the idea that Place is merely a walk down memory lane. There are a few new songs here: The simple, spellbinding "Taken," a chilling lament for lost innocence, is driven along by spare acoustic guitar and gossamer keyboards, and is sung with the infinite regret of a fallen angel; on "We Met by the Love-Lies-Bleeding," Frazer is her own chorus, with layers of her disembodied voice sighing and wailing like ghosts trying to get a warning to the living; the galloping-cowboy cadence of "An Awful Shade of Blue" evokes the cinematic morality plays of the Ennio Morricone-scored spaghetti westerns. Admittedly, this album's nonstop gothic mood can become a bit numbing if consumed in one sitting, but taken in small doses, A Place Where I Know is as fine a soundtrack for disconsolate, haunted contemplation as one is likely to find.

About The Author

Mark Keresman


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