Take dark themes of dysfunctionality and fracturedlives, wrap them in sugar-coated candyfloss melodiesand pour them into crystal decanters. Filter themthrough electronic psychedelics that owe an equal debtto Portishead and Beck and if you canimagine what might come out the other end, you’ve gota good chance of guessing what Sarah Nixey’s firstsolo album might sound like. Ignore its own subheading- “Through the glitter and the grandeur, there’s lifein the cabaret” – as there’s very little cabaret hereand very much more that can be traced back to theinfluence of producer James Banbury.
Sing, Memory is released on the ServiceAv labelthat Banbury runs with former Art of Noise member, talking head andall-round art pop aristo Paul Morley, both ofwhom have previously worked with Nixey in the sublimeInfantjoy, and it’s to this group more than thebetter known Luke Haines side project BlackBox Recorder (for whom she also provided vocals)that Sing, Memory owes its largest debt.
In between triphop beats, artpop electronics anddisco drum lines you’ll still find lyrics about doublewhiskeys, concrete jungles and children crying on theradio of course. She’s not going to let you get offthat easily. Nightshift in particular is this album’sChild Psychology, a song as fragile and beautiful asit is disturbing but Nixey has taken the original,recorded by Peel favourites The Names, and madeit her own.
From the spoken word intro of Sing (prelude), Nixeysets out her stall, explaining that there are twosides to everything: some songs are true and othersare lies. What follows is an album in two halves, apackage that in the good old days of vinyl would havebeen spread over two lovely large discs of delicateblack vinyl to slip in and out of a beautifullydesigned gatefold, to nurture and caress. It’sdifficult to think of Nixey without images of aperfect, bohemian utopia bubbling to the surface. Weslip even further into the night from Memory (prelude)onwards, another spoken word intro that segues intoThe Collector, the album’s standout single.
The woman will always have a special place in thisreviewer’s heart for bringing melodious life to theline “Life is unfair/Kill yourself or get over it”,thereby rubbishing Morrissey‘s entire career injust nine words and proving her utter superiority toall other forms of pop life but nonetheless it’s goodto see that she can cut the mustard without Haines’idiosyncratic (read: disturbingly bonkers) lyrics toback her up. At times disposable MTV disco – singleStrangelove to name but one – and at others music fora trashed BoHo lounge at 4am – Masqueradedeserves special mention – Sing, Memory is aslistenable as it is addictively seductive, the perfectsoundtrack for when the curtains are drawn and thesheets are made of black satin.
It’s a record that beckons you in with an evil grinto slip beneath its eighties electro surface into thesame dark and murky waters where Echo and the Bunnymenand OMD first invited us to skinny dip. Echoes of thedarker end of eighties electronica flit all over thealbum, above and beyond the cover of the earlyHuman League classic The Black Hit OfSpace, slipping in and out of ethereal memoriesfrom the British Electric Foundation to SaintEtienne.
On 13 February Nixey is playing the StValentine’s Day Massacre at the Luminaire – a venuethat could prove to be the ultimate date. Marry theboy who offers to take you there and you won’t go farwrong. Unless he murders you on the wedding night ofcourse, which would make a great subject for a SarahNixey song. Let’s hope she’s working on the next albumalready.