Monika H. Band | Disguised As Umbrellas, We Slept

Self-released (2008)
By JON GARELICK  |  November 3, 2008
2.5 2.5 Stars
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If you make everything in a song complicated — structure, melody, chords, rhythms, lyrics — then maybe you’re not playing pop music at all. Monika H.’s press material offers comparisons with Björk and Si*Sé, but really, the NEC grad (now living in Brooklyn) makes those two avant-singer-songwriters sound like Irving Berlin. A couple of years ago, she released Bright, which mixed her own surrealistic rock-inflected tunes with a couple of pieces by avant-jazz hero Steve Lacy. The new disc is dense with dirty-guitar chords and heavy beats but few grooves or hooks. Monika’s taste for leaping vocal lines likewise pushes the art-rock envelope. There are beautiful details throughout: the shifting dynamics and cascading guitar of “Fun To Be Had, If You Let It”; the buzzing bass clarinet and chorale-like trumpet/voice opening of “Ride”; her singing. And her smudged-mascara morning-after poetry (which includes a setting of a poem by Richard Murphy) is worth bending your ears into the thicket for. But amid the clamor, you might be grateful for the simple Zep-like guitar riffs of “Night Pray.” That said, Umbrellas is never boring, and the lovely, spooky closer, “Your Doom,” is almost as simple as Steve Lacy.