June 13 - June 20, 1 9 9 6

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*** Cat Power


(Smells Like Records)

The first track on Myra Lee comes into focus slowly. Some lightly strummed, vaguely dissonant guitar chords settle shyly into the background, a ghostly woman's voice emits a barely audible line or two. It feels almost as if the song had begun as nothing more than an afterthought. And then the empty spaces in Chan Marshall's increasingly steady strumming begin to come alive with an eerie kind of tension that won't let go. "Here they go again, I can't see them," she sings in a haunting trance, conjuring the same aura of magical realism that blanketed Kristin Hersh's beautifully stark Hips and Makers (4AD).

Hersh's intimate narratives from the realm of fractured psyches are one precedent for the unsettling spells that Marshall casts. PJ Harvey's 4-Track Demos also comes to mind, especially when Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and Two Dollar Guitar guitarist Tim Foljahn join Marshall for some skeletal indie blues on "We All Die." But Marshall, who grew up in the South and now lives in NYC, brings her own sense of mystery to an exquisite, off-the-cuff cover of the Hank Williams ballad "I Can't Help It If I'm Still in Love with You," proving that sometimes afterthoughts are the best thoughts of all.

-- Matt Ashare

(Cat Power open for Railroad Jerk and Guided by Voices tonight, June 13, at Avalon.)

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