No, silly, this album is not about Penelope Pitstop from Wacky Races, so sit down and stop yelling, “Yay!” It does, however, tell a story about another Penelope whose “husband appears at her door after an absence of twenty years, suffering from brain damage. A veteran of an unnamed war, he doesn’t know who he is and she doesn’t know who he’s become. While they wait together for his return to himself, she reads him Homer’s Odyssey, and in the journey of that book, she finds a way into her former husband’s memory and the terror and trauma of war.” Sarah Kirkland Snider originally composed Penelope as a piece of musical theater for alto actor and string quartet, then she adapted it into a set of songs for a singer, sound design and a chamber orchestra consisting of violin, viola, cello, bass, harp and percussion, plus guests on electric guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, electric bass and percussion. What it all amounts to is 14 tracks of mega-mellow, melodic chamber pop with occasional subtle crackles and drones; and the lovely, unadorned singing of Shara Worden, which is often pleasantly devoid of vibrato. We’re talking elegant, melancholy and minimal music in which subtle pulsations dominate; then suddenly, screeching strings straight out of the Psycho shower scene jut out and cut into your eardrums, before beating it back to bed. So, if you like your ear snacks saccharine and sad, skip the pitstop, race on out and buy this CD, pronto.
Text ©2011 Arcane Candy