Elizabeth Anka Vajagic
To say that I'm a big fan of Constellation Records would probably be an understatement. I have everything that the label has released to date, and although I don't think that everything they've put out is a stunner, they still come to mind every time I think of small labels with solid rosters. Elizabeth Anka Vajagic is the newest member of their roster, and like several other releases on the label, it doesn't really sound like what you'd expect when you think of typical artists on the label.
While the label doesn't really have a "sound," it is mainly known for the bigger-name artists on the label and usually referenced according to that. Although Vajagic doesn't completely come out of left field, those looking for another Do Make Say Think or Silver Mt. Zion will find themselves a bit confused and perhaps disappointed. In fact, probably the artist on the label that Vajagic has the most in common with is Frankie Sparo, but even that's pushing it a bit (especially given Sparo's less-sparse Welcome Crummy Mystics release). Instead, she might be best described as part Patti Smith, part Cat Power, and part Diamanda Galas. Stir in a totally narcotic mood, and you have something close to Stand With The Stillness Of This Day.
7 tracks on this release run just over 40 minutes, and although they are lovely in terms of texture and mood, much of the time they just don't sustain themselves over their long durations. "With Hopes Lost" moves at a crawl with building guitars and strings while Vajagic increasingly pours on the vocal workout, wailing so hard at points that her voice cracks and breaks. On the track (as on others) the vocals themselves are the high point, because even though the instrumentation backing the tracks is effective, it rarely creates enough tension to pull the listener through the in-between spaces. The big exception to that rule is easily the album standout of "Where You Wonder," a coiling, dynamic track that ties everything together while going from subtle beauty to noisy freakout.
The other standout track on the release is "And The Sky Lay Still," a song that slowly layers piles of guitar shades on one another as the track builds to a heavenly conclusion. Other than a couple other places, though, the album is mainly content to slowly pace along while Vajagic lays down her vocal workouts. While it definitely has mood to burn (the beautiful and bleak cover art is perfect), it comes at the expense of overall dynamics and with a lethargic pace. For the curious.