Blackmouth is a striking three way collaboration between Jarboe (Swans), John Bergin (C17H19NO3, Trust Obey) and Brett Smith (Caul). With a trio like that at the helm this review should basically write itself, but predictability aside I'll continue...
The three definitely aren't strangers. Jarboe and Smith both contributed to C17's 1692/2092 release in early 1999, and Smith has teamed up with Bergin in the past on both the projects Tertium Non Data and Trust Obey. So it seems as though Blackmouth is simply a natural progression from previous collaborations. This music borrows aspects from all of their individual styles, and at the same time clicks to form something altogether new - the best kind of collaboration.
Jarboe is the voice of Blackmouth. Her vocal range and style is not lost on this disc, which showcases the twisted elements of her strong, beautiful presence. The melancholy overtones, supported by her darkly poetic lyrics, take a back seat to the sheer vibrancy of her voice - soft melodies, near whispered speech, all out gritty shrieks... she blends styles unlike any other singer I can think of.
The music itself is almost as diverse, the three versions of "The Conversation" being a good example. The first, "Silent," is purely rich, tonal washes of sound reminiscent of Smith's work as Caul. This is a stark, yet vast introduction to the disc, Jarboe's voice standing on its own with no solid footing. The second version, "Relapse," is altogether different, aside from the same gradual pace. A simple bass guitar line is matched by and even simpler scratchy rhythm, which is eventually joined by solid, repetitive melodies that flesh out the track. The final version, "Cruel," the last track on the disc, is also one of the most upbeat and percussive. A textured drum loop provides a pounding base, with dark electronics and Jarboe's (by now familiar) lyrics to the song attached at the head.
"Search and Destroy" is one of the more straightforward tracks as far as instrumentation goes, a bass line and electric guitar at the forefront of the sound ahead of a basic sounding drum machine. The outcome is great; definitely one of the harsher moments of the CD, with heavy chords breaking in to support the aggressive chorus. The spooky spoken word verses of "Surrender for His Heart" reveal a surreal side to Jarboe's lyrics, coupled with a darkly sensual side that blurs the line between arousing and disturbing. The music doesn't steal the limelight from these words, but supports them perfectly with a steady beat and ominous programming.
If you're into any of these musician's previous work, no matter how mild the capacity, this disc is essential. I'd also strongly recommend it as a starting point for the unfamiliar. Though all three talents have solo projects to tend to it would be great to see Blackmouth continue, and I sincerely hope this isn't simply a one off deal. Predictable one word synopsis: amazing.