• ormonde Machine (CD, £9.75)

    label: Hometapes

    Anna-Lynne Williams and Robert Gomez, nearly strangers, left Seattle and Denton and went to Marfa to make a record. They platonically arranged their instruments in a tiny adobe house in the most dreamlike town in Texas. They made ten songs. They called it Machine. The machine only works if all our parts give in. So goes the title track, nestled into side A, one of a dozen page-turning clues to what it was like for a man and a woman, this man and woman, to live side-by-side, to finish each other's lines, to speak in chords, to read the paper in the morning, to write a song about it in the evening, and to build a world out of an experiment. "I'd never written lyrics with someone before," writes Williams, "we were writing the words to "Hold the Water" together and were actually passing slips of paper back and forth to each other. We were too shy to say them out loud." Robert Gomez, between a prolific solo career and tours with Midlake and Sarah Jaffe, packed a suitcase of sonic sketches to meet Anna-Lynne Williams in the middle. The woman also known as Lotte Kestner, half of the dreamy Northwest early-aught flourishers Trespassers William, and the singer-cum-club-conjurerer on the Chemical Brothers track "Hold Tight London", Williams journeyed from Seattle with the same sprouting notions of the songs that became Ormonde -- a name that dances around monde, French for "world," the great encompasser. Though a longer journey than an album of succinct pop songs, Machine moves along at a heart-quickening pace. The stories it tells open all shapes and sizes of windows to lifetimes of love. The lyrics, printed on the back cover of the LP, are a stumbled-upon diary of silver-tongued impressions. And the music: when you hear the guitar strum, when you hear Gomez breathe in, when you realize you're hearing the corners of a small room in a small house, and when William's voice pours over it all like slow rain, you aren't surprised when an accordion appears, and when a Mellotron hushes the scene. Machine is as intimate as waking up to someone singing alone and as grand in composition, performance, and capture as the unfading records you might find yourself comparing it to: Emmit Rhodes' Emmitt Rhodes, Blonde Redhead's Misery is a Butterfly, and The Cardigans' Long Gone Before Daylight. The standout track "Sudden Bright" -- a true child of the affair, started from scratch in Marfa -- was inspired by a newspaper story about a raging fire that began in a nearby town, charring acres of land. It prompted one of the album's greatest lines, one that dares you to create your own mental vista: We can watch the end of the world from here. The album's opener, "I Can't Imagine", is as devastating as it is gentle, a note passed back to a fan across the Atlantic who had written Williams, while she was in Marfa, about his time in the military: "I could tell you, for instance, that dead bodies are heavy and difficult to carry." It's oddly fitting that Ormonde's opening statement is the only song where Williams kept her scratch vocal take. Recorded as a placeholder with a bad microphone, it could never be beat. 2 songs later, the duo dives headfirst into an exquisite cover of Serge & Charlotte Gainsbourg's "Lemon Incest", translated into English and as sketchily-seductive. Replace father & daughter with Gomez & Williams. Ormonde was born in a bed of risk. Tracklist: 1. I Can't Imagine, 2. Cherry Blossom, 3. Lemon Incest, 4. Machine, 5. Secret, 6. Blank Slate, 7. Sudden Bright, 8. Hold The Water, 9. Drink, 10. I'll Let You Know

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