DELUSIONS OF ADEQUECY.NET:
I Take On Your Days
Almost as if Gillian Welch had grown up listening to Cat Power instead of the Carter Family, Corrina Repp channels a folkish simplicity through a more modern singer-songwriter filter. Only her second full-length release, the State Flowers guitarist is already one of the true indie rock luminaries of the Portland scene, rightfully earning a fine reputation for releasing albums of intense beauty when not lending a helping hand to the work of like-minded musicians.
Like labelmate Elisabeth Wood, Repp specializes in quiet solemnity, cataloguing failed relationships and similarly disappointing memories with a breathy croon and rhetorical musings. As the nature of these reflections are somewhat conflicted, seemingly compliant when proclaiming “I think of your mother, I think of your father, and I’m homesick after all” on the title track, then turning more defiant in proclaiming her incompatibility on “Opinion,” Repp still loses little in interpretation. Layering reverby guitar over a backdrop of acoustic guitar textures, Repp can occasionally bring to mind the more somber side of the Velvet Underground. As a versatile guitarist, Repp balances excellent finger-picked guitar with the occasional wave of dissonant guitar drones or keyboard flourish.
Rarely overtly tuneful, instead preferring to use an economy of notes and double-tracked vocals to perfectly complement her hushed phrasing, Repp’s unadorned aesthetic is the perfect vehicle for her delicate verse. The unstable cello of “Blues for the Unencouraged” and the spooky rolling classical guitar of “Upstairs, Outside” help close the set with humorless aplomb, though Repp eventually finds resolution when softly whispering, “I don’t need to be anyone’s friend” on “Let’s Call it the Truth,” seemingly summing up an album that travels a impressive distance in only 27 minutes with an unexpected sense of fulfillment.
As her vision is fairly insular and not altogether accessible, it’s doubtful that Repp will ever find a mass audience. Of course, it’s just as doubtful that she wants to, either. The rewards of her music are obvious at first listen, though its achingly endearing subtleties take considerably longer to uncover, potentially making it difficult for those looking for an immediate fix. While the ranks of thoughtful, slightly disillusione
I Take On Your Days
Sonny Rollins once told a friend of mine, critic Garry Giddins, “Don’t ever shrink from the belief that you have to prove yourself every minute, because you do.” Then Sonny asked how old Theo was doing, and Garry said “Fine”. I’m doing well because there are artists in the indie music community whose work proves the “slacker generation” is not all about slacking. When I beat Garry to the punch and interviewed Ida, I saw not only their glowing love of music (and the thrill a Lou Reed or Prince record might give them), but their burning motivation to always one-up their past. Among the ways they improve their work is through side projects, like Beekeeper and Liquorice, and by helping to add greatness to friends’ albums. Their musical achievements make it clear that Ida’s concern is for the project at hand, not for extraneous crap like fame or fortune.
Like the members of Ida, Corrina Repp keeps a busy schedule by offering assistance on many HUSH and Jealous Butcher releases. Pick any album recorded in Portland in the years since her great debut, A Boat Called Hope , was released; chances are, if the record was good, Corrina helped out. On her second full length, her generous support on friends’ records has been paid back handsomely. The first six tunes far surpass any hopes or expectations a person could have, while tracks seven through ten live up to the promise of Repp’s debut, giving Westerners their own Cowboy Junkie to kill them softly.
The songs define the phrase “so good it hurts”, and I will never have enough time to fully exalt them. The first eight or ten seconds of the disc are about roaring guitar…and then quiet, leading to questions (“What if I never raised my voice?”) whose answers (“You’d never know how weak I can be”) refer to the person, not the song. These songs are not at all weak, but add more delicate muscle upon a foundation built in the seventies by Sandy Denny and Linda Thompson. The poetry is subtle but powerful; never forced, it is as natural as a Mark Strand or Charles Simic could make a line appear. Speaking of a failed relationship, she sings “I put his coat on/It never quite fit”. Of a “happier” relationship, “I take on your nights/Even when you cry”.
As for Repp’s voice, it perfectly complements the songs. I might not want her to sing me “Happy Birthday”, but her brand of fragile folk and country could please any fan of Trembling Blue Stars or the Lightning Seeds. Her voice has a softness that’s so worn, it conveys the puncture marks of any of her thoughts. I Take On Your Days will lovingly take on your nights. Repp’s lyrical insight — which has grown so much that her next stage must will surely be omniscience — will shower you with such beauty you’ll cry like a child…then play the CD again
I Take On Your Days
Clocking in at just under 30 minutes long, this second full-length CD by Corrina Repp is another excellent release on the appropriately-named Hush Records label and a fairly stripped-down follow-up for the artist. Having said that she likes to sit in the dark and record her songs with her amp sitting in front of her (recording vocals and guitar at the same time), that intimacy is apparent even though this release seems to have been recorded in a slightly different setting.
The interesting thing (and slightly funny) about the recording is that the loudest moments actually come within the first 20 seconds of the entire release. Opening up with some nicely layered drones of guitar on “Did You Say You Were Grown?,” things quiet down considerably as soon as the vocals of Repp come in, although the instrumentation of the track never really raises above slowly shifting drones. Her voice has been compared to something comparable to the Cowboy Junkies’ Margo Timmins, and that comparison is slightly warranted, although one could mention other warm voices like Chan Marshall of Cat Power or even labelmate Amy Annelle (whose recent release A School Of Secret Dangers proves there’s a veritable powerhouse of female singers on the upper Northwest).
On the next track “Opinion,” Repp tackles things with multitracked vocals and an acoustic guitar (as well as some other atmospheric noises) and her vocals stand even stronger than the opening track. Many of the tracks on the album take on relationships and the hardships and aftermath of them, and although there are a couple extra players involved in the disc, Repp takes on most of the guitar and keys (whether it’s a plain old piano or the slight addition of a keyboard). As seems to be the case with many releases, one of the most interesting tracks is also the shortest. “Good News” barely cracks the two minute mark and the guitar melody is so slight that it’s barely there, but the slight twang of it along with the slightly building percussion and two-part vocal harmony give it a sense of urgency that fit with the lyrics almost perfectly.
As can be expected from the album length given above, the 10 songs on the album never outstay their welcome or drag on to the point of annoyance. Repp has a knack for the short and concise tune writing, and like a good little singer/songwriter album, I Take On Your Days is one of those releases that you’ll probably find yourself simply putting on repeat. As mentioned above, it’s a very quiet release, with the definite emphasis on the vocals and delivery. Both of those are solid, though, and the instrumentation on the release is interesting enough to add to the songs but not so completely wallpaper that it completely drifts into the background.
CORRINA REPP I Take On Your Days (Hush Records)
The name Hush says it all, because the label continually releases records by some of Portland’s best-kept secrets. Case in point; the chanteuse with the Lauren Bacall voice, Corrina Repp. This is Corrina’s third Hush release, so why is it that we don’t hear about her as often as, say, Rick Bain? Well, probably because Corrina is quiet, and her sounds of silence take time to appreciate, going as they do for the heart and not the crotch (rawk!). I Take On Your Days sees her stepping away from the simple guitar-and-voice formula and getting experimental. The background drones of “Did You Say You Were Grown?” and “Gone” remind me of a more focused Cat Power, and her refined vocals on “Opinion” and “Undertow” out-Vega Suzanne. But the charm of this record is how it gives the listener a sense of clandestine importance, as if Corrina is letting you in on a secret, voicing the unspoken thoughts of the quiet, coffee-shop girl who boys like me are too scared to talk to. It’s a powerful mastery of songcraft–no frills, all feeling. JAMIE S. RICH
CORRINA REPP PROFILE
by Jamie S. Rich
“I sit right in front of my amp. I have it on a table, put my chair right in front of it and my feet up on it,” Corrina Repp explains over coffee. We have spent an hour discussing many topics, but mostly her debut album, A Boat Called Hope (Hush Records), and the things that compel her to create music. We talk about the recurring themes in her music–from escapism, to longing, to forcing change–and about performing, recording and all the things that go into making an album. We even talk about how other people interpret her work. One recurring topic that pops up during our conversation is Repp’s leaning toward solitude and taking a singular path; with solitude comes a certain satisfaction.
“I live in an apartment,” Repp continues, “and I try to keep it fairly quiet. With the amp so close, the sound comes right directly onto me, and the room is usually dark to block out any other distractions. If I had a light on, I’d still see the wall, but I don’t see anything. There’s nothing else. It’s one on one.”
There’s a Lyle Lovett song in which he heads out to sea on a boat with a horse as his only companion. The song slams Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger and is presented in a humorous tone, but overall, Lovett says something about living a simple life, about carving a simple existence. It’s a bit like the titular boat on Repp’s album, or her technique of writing music in the dark. “There’s a vision I’ve had for the past couple of years where I start to feel stifled and I feel like I need a change,” says Repp. “I’m tired, I’ve been going through job after job, and part of my vision is to sell my stuff, get in the car, and just drive…just to be out there and have freedom…like time doesn’t exist.”
Drastic change isn’t just a metaphorical concept for Repp. Six years ago, she quit college before getting her degree so she could focus all her attention on music. Though family and friends didn’t support her decision, there wasn’t a doubt in Repp’s mind that following her muse was what she needed to do.
Her disposition for change has manifested itself in A Boat Called Hope, 14 songs that paint brutally honest portraits of dreamers over a stark musical canvas. Most of the songs are just Corrina: a voice and a guitar and no extraneous garnishes. “A lot of what’s wrong with music is all the bullshit that gets in the way,” Repp says. “Overproduction, 24,000 tracks, just too much gloss. I wanted [the album] to be simple because there is nothing better than a crack in the voice when you’re singing. That’s why I recorded the guitars and vocals at the same time–to have that intimacy and immediacy.
(First appeared in The Rocket magazine, 12/16/98)
Corrina Repp The Other Side is Mud (Hush)
Portland songstress Corrina Repp titled her last release A Boat Called Hope; now, she’s on to The Other Side is Mud. Though she hasn’t traded in optimism for absolute darkness, there is a distinct shift toward the bleak, as Mud’s seven songs detail the age-old theme of relationships ending. To this well-worn ground, Repp brings her own knack, marrying subtle contradictions in purely natural ways. In fact, the salient quality of Repp’s work is her shy confidence. On many of the songs, the narrator is in a lonely place but ultimately finds solace within, seeing she is stronger than the failed love. “We found out you didn’t need me, and I didn’t need you/It was just too perfect to trust,” she asserts in “April Fool.” Repp’s deep, textured voice rings with honesty as she stretches her style to find fresh nuance and emotion. Organs and harmonicas join the soft acoustic guitars, and Repp has traded some of the folk elements for a quiet country sound. With this assured effort, Repp proves herself an artist who has only just begun to explore life’s varied, rugged shores. Jamie S. Rich
THE ROCKET MAGAZINE:
Corrina Repp The Other Side Is Mud
(Hush Records CD-EP) Perhaps better known for her guitar work with the State Flowers than for her own solo recordings, Portland singer/songwriter Corrina Repp continues along the same path on her latest EP, The Other Side Is Mud, as she followed on her 1998 full-length, A Boat Called Hope. Capturing various hues of blue mood paint on her home 4-track (you can just make out a crow’s call in the background of “They Sang the Solo”), Repp fashions a quiet storm that probably has more in common with Cat Power’s Chan Marshall than it does with either Gillian Welch or Margo Timmins, artists with whom her work has been compared. Similar to Marshall, prickly moods occasionally poke out of Repp’s largely acoustic surfaces–as on “At the End of the Night,” where she angrily dismisses an acquaintance with “I should have told you to fuck off/but you’re no one”–lending the whole affair a complicated set of dimensions. Just like real life.
THE ROCKET MAGAZINE:
Corrina Repp “A Boat Called Hope” (Hush CD)
Corrina Repp, who co-fronts the Portland band State Flowers, takes her cue from the third Velvet Underground album, delivering songs characterized by simplicity and understated melancholy. Repp’s limitations, both as a singer and guitarist, prove virtuous when executing this kind of pop minimalism. The album’s centerpiece, “The Fires of St. Jude,” is momentous in its stark rigor, showing an acute mind at work. Chad Crouch’s super-restrained organ flourishes are also a welcome addition. Yet the 14 songs constituting A Boat Called Hope are, perhaps, a few too many given the lack of variation between numbers. The State Flowers’ demo indicates how well Repp’s material works when submerged into a group identity, and one looks forward to seeing more from both her respective projects. – Wayne Pernu (First appeared in The Rocket magazine, 11/4/98)
CORRINA REPP & BIG SPIDER TRIBE
This EP, PDX art collective Red 76’s first release, is tinged with somber whiskey and smutty tumbleweeds. Corrina Repp, a swampy-twanged whisperer, wisely plays her guitar just enough to fill in the spots when she’s not singing. Her lyrics are stream-of-conscious scribblings, like a bitter woman’s diary; their honesty can be to her advantage, but in some places sound like she wasn’t quite sure what to write or where to sing. Big Spider Tribe offers the hot end of the CD, the part reminiscent of moonshine, sweaty fistfights, and sexy yearning. “Bison Epic,” and “Dance!” offer a workhorse, blue grit sound that’ll tease you into thinking you smell cedar and smoke. JULIANNE SHEPHERD