Tara vanFlower: My Little Fire-Filled Heart (Silber Records, 2005)

by Jason

VanflowerTara vanFlower is billed as an ambient/experimental artist in her press releases, but I would take the ambient out of the equation. This album plays more like an experimental performance track with the focus on vocals and poetry. That being said, Tara seems to have poured out the darker side of her psyche into this disc. At times, the disc is really hard to listen to because of the darkness and repetition that occurs. At other times, Tara can grab the listener with a line or two and peak interest in her content. I am also very hesitant to say that she uses any traditional instruments, minus a few keyboard sounds and some guitar noise. There are other sounds involved such as chimes and what sounds like pipes knocking, etc.

“Ligertily” begins the album with listful vocals that show off vanFlower’s beautiful voice. It is a brief introduction that leads into a more disconcerting piece called “Yaya.” The words of this peace are rather wonderful, but the low, moaning track played amidst the spoken words is rather gloomy and ominous. VanFlower seems to speak of a love so deep it envelops the two who participate while a background voice states “this cannot be” over and over again. “Rabbit” has a vocal style a bit like Siouxsie Sioux, but there is only reverberating sounds and what sounds like loud drips echoing in a concrete hall. The words seem to be about someone who is dead that has passed on because of a girl he has kissed. Perhaps this is a metaphorical death, but the poem is certainly rife with death like imagery. “The Honor of Silence” has humming keys and vanFlower’s sweet voice speaking words I can’t always make out. This track is one of the least dissonant and has the most ambient feel of most of the tracks.

“Naked King” has a staccato feel that is abrupt and a bit chaotic. It’s a bit long and I only wish this track were a bit shorter. Perhaps the point is to disturb or irritate the listener, but, frankly, I am a little put off by this track. It’s a bit too much. “Silverback” follows on the heals of “Naked King” and has chimes and sighs mixed with moans in the background. This is a spoken piece in the sense of a poetry reading. This track repeats the spoken words and is also a bit on the long side for the sort of piece it is, but it certainly is not as grating as “Naked King.” This track shows her style of poet, so, I thought it best to type the words out for you.

We hold hands like monkeys
small hands in clasping rings
fettered together threaded
white milk and scales
like the belly of a fish
slide into me silver crescent
watch as my insides spill
silver sickle of the stars
I hid behind you once
on the dark side of your blade
childlike and simple
unopen flower
you sing to me like heaven-mouths
gaping at
the surface of the silver sky
breathe into me breathe into me
I will fall at your feet
your silver feet
dipped into something savory
and my lips will worship there
gaping at
the surface of your silver skin
waking before
the simple act of kindness
before bowed heads and empty eyes
before devil grins and empty eyes
I walked on your silver surface once
uncut and immune

“The Girl from the Green Dimension” begins with chimes again and a hum. It strikes me that vanFlower must have experience so much despair in connection to death. This track also deals with the passing of a friend or lover of some sort. Her voice is listless and travels amidst the chimes. The track has a sweet feeling, but there is also a sort of dirge underneath her voice. “I Lost the Moon” has a sort of breathing and some chaotic guitar work in it. One of the things I don’t like about the artwork on this disc is that some lyrics are included while other songs are omitted. “I Lost the Moon” is absent from the lyric sheet. Therefore, I can only get a feel for the song by the sounds. The breathing lends a sort of sexual feeling while the guitar makes that feeling seem rather dissonant and, perhaps, unhappy in the memory.

“A Rusted Nail Through the Wrist” starts with rather interesting percussion and odd noises. The lyrical content almost has a redemptive quality to them. Having “missed the mark,” vanFlower seems to look toward the one who is nailed to a tree. Perhaps, this is the Christ, but I can’t be sure. “A Conversation with Death” is an old spiritual that vanFlower sings over the blowing of wind. Her voice is so beautiful and weeping on this track. I wish she would have sung more like this throughout the album. This track is just beautiful. “Wren” begins with the sound of falling rain and a baby’s toy playing in the background. This song centers on a young girl whose mother is singing to her to comfort her in the dark. This track is sweet, but at the same time almost eerie. “Tigerlily” plays the album out. It is a short 37 seconds and it contains the song “Sunshine.”

All in all, my first reaction to this disc was highly negative. After another spin or two, I started to warm up to it and began to understand better what vanFlower is doing here. Although that is so, I would say that there are a few tracks that need trimming. Sometimes, the length on these really makes the track feel like it’s beating a dead horse by its end. That said, vanFlower can evoke emotions in the listener and she makes provocative comments on the subject of death.

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