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Fieldhouse Recordings

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"Why, we are all nerds, and she is our queen!"

"Well i didn't vote for her."

Whenever i hear the name of this artist, i can't help but thinking about Monty Python and the Holy Grail, instead of the King of the Britons, i think of the Kween of the Nerds. And now that you mention it, i am sure that there is a 12-step program somewhere on the internet to help me with this.

Nerdkween is the stage name of one Monica Arrington, who has been a fixture in the Atlanta music scene for a few years now, and Profitandloss is her second album. Arrington makes music that fluctuates between delicate ambience and light folk. In a way, what Nerdkween does is very similar to Benoît Pioulard in that both show that folk and drone can work together very well, when done right.

Profitandloss is a short album, clocking in at just under half an hour. There are seven songs, so let me go over them.

The entire record starts off with some static, like a radio turned too loud onto the space just slightly off from a station, a fusion of hissing, static, and half-heard voice. After half a minute or so her voice, heavily echoed, comes in. The song is called Catalyst, and i think she performed it live the one time i saw her in concert. Whether i have seen it or not, this is a lovely song that continues to grow over six and a half minutes. Arrington layers in multiple echoed voice lines and some faint guitar. This reminds me somewhat of what Lichens are doing. Fine stuff.

After that ambiance fades out, it is something of a shock when the next tune kicks off with a shaken tambourine beat and electric guitar strumming. The song is Let Me Go, and Arrington sings here with no distortion. It is a pleasant folk tune, i guess. It has a coda, which is the next track, Let Me Go (Afterward), which takes the folk song and filters it through some echo, making it more like that first tune.

Such Grace is next, another light droning song, although here Arrington sings with less echo on her voice. That is, the slight echo seems natural, giving the impression that she is singing in a big theater with natural resonance. I wonder where she recorded this song? There is tapped drum, other layers of voice, a sample of someone reading the news or something, and a light keyboard-y drone, although her voice is the centerpiece. And she is more than capable of pulling off a largely vocal only song -- the woman has a lovely voice, and it shows.

Arrington adds some kind of retro distortion to her voice on Bird Twitters in order to make her sound like the song was recorded in the 1920s. It is a mono, trebly distortion, and i associate it with early jazz, probably because bands like Squirrel Nut Zippers used a similar effect. It almost sounds like Arrington is playing a banjo or a loosely strung guitar here as well, which amplifies the retro feel. Overall, this is a decent song, but not her best work.

Her voice is clean on Drown, which starts with almost a minute of acapella singing, before she brings in light guitar. The song meanders as a folk song for another two minutes, then, suddenly, another layer of guitar and some rumbling drumming comes in. Arrington cuts loose, really wailing away with her voice. Listening to this last part of the song, i think she could do soul music pretty well. This song grows and changes nicely, in interesting and unexpected ways.

Finally, the record ends with ...A Year Of The Dragon, which is another staticky tune much like the first part of Catalyst. To this, Arrington adds a bass beat, some tapped drums, and layers of keys. This song is an oddly funky end to a very light, mellow album. It is well done, but almost out of place on the record.

I like what Ms. Arrington is doing. She has a lot of interesting ideas, and they seem rather diverse. She does folk music well, and she does drone well. I almost want her to focus on one genre or the other (drone!), but i have to admit that i am curious to see how she continues to grow as a musician, balancing the two.

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    Concert: Sat.20.Jan.08


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