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Beautiful People Ltd.

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Album Review

Issued in 1993, this 13-track collaborative effort between the ever enigmatic vocalist and songwriter Jarboe, then a member of the bands Swans and Skin, and multi-instrumentalist Lary Seven is one of the most beguiling and accessible recordings she ever issued. Jarboe's strength and ability as a rock vocalist are unquestionable. She has range and depth and force, which she showcases with aplomb and power. On Beautiful People Ltd., something else is required of her: subtlety. Following the primal powerhouse that was Thirteen Masks, this album is its mirror image. Seven's ability to create spacious if ominous textures is canny, smart, and very empathetic to the other side of Jarboe's voice. While she worked through quieter material with Skin, her duo with Michael Gira, the material here is even quieter, and perhaps even more bent. The opener is a shimmering night song called "Warm Liquid Event." Percussion, acoustic guitars, marimbas, and gently wafting keyboards float about Jarboe's sweet, ethereal singing, the very illustration of the pleasure in her lyrics. "A Coruscation" is a warped kind of gospel song that comes out of Jarboe's snake-handling religious background and turns it back on itself with eerie atmospherics and hand drums in the distance. Her multi-tracked vocal harmonies stretch the narrative in the song to the breaking point. The pair's reading of "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story is preceded by a recorded phone call that gives way to psychotic psychedelicized treatment that is simply out to lunch. "No" is just plain creepy, with layers of looped percussion and her voice mangled by tape speed manipulation. The most beautiful thing here is "Liquid Bébé Psychedelia," where striated harmonies are multi-tracked to sing in unison. Jarboe's voices drift through the center of the mix, topped by drum loops and open-tuned guitars, making for a dramatic, haunting, and affirming love song that could have been recorded as part of Love's Forever Changes sessions. The 2004 reissue of the set by Atavistic contains six bonus tracks — some extra tunes and some mixes of album cuts — that make this package even wilder and more out of time and space. Recommended.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Coming to rock and experimental music from a complex, fascinating background (both her parents were FBI agents; her upbringing in the South included such elements of extreme American religious faith as snake-handling ceremonies; and before her direct involvement in music she participated in "unorthodox sex work," to use her own words, in various U.S. cities), Jarboe, who has always preferred to be known by her sole name, has long been known as one of the fiercest spirits in modern music. She is an...
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Beautiful People Ltd., Jarboe
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