Rebekah Delgado - Don't Sleep - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Rebekah Delgado - Don't Sleep

by Priscilla Eyles Rating:6 Release Date:2012-10-15

Former lead-singer of indie bands Ciccone and The Last Army, this solo debut is a more unconventional proposition then Rebekah Delgado's previous output. Don't Sleep is influenced, according to her website, by her Spanish roots and Arabic leanings (using Arabic tuning and Dorian key structures- apparently it's a minor-key structure) and artists such as Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Patti Smith, Serge Gainsbourg, Pulp and Sonic Youth.

And there's certainly a lot of Nick Cave in this album (she even mentions a 'bad seed' on 'Don't Sleep'), with its morbid, sometimes explicitly aggressive/grotesque imagery (From 'Little Boy Blue': "It's love that he feels though it felt like rape"; and from 'Scoundrelle': "Maggot, she's crawling wither fat white belly ripe") and largely gothic atmosphere. There are also elements of Kristin Hersh in the raspy, throaty quality of her vocals, and Nina Natasia in the unusual/quirky instrumentation, such as the use of the musical saw which features on many of the tracks. I would also add to that mix a splash of chamber-pop such a la Rasputina and a dash of twisted and retro cabaret.

Mesmeric opener 'Little Boy Blue' is a potently gothic statement, of intent with its subverted religious imagery ("Little boy blue don't know what to do/ with the thorn in his side that was put there by you") telling a creepy tale of an obsessive and possessive ex-lover. And there are some nice tonal and atmospheric touches, such as the aforementioned musical saw (though I would say this novelty instrument is rather overused on the album generally); a layer of droning Sonic Youth-esque guitar; well-placed male harmonies, and eerie double-tracked whispered vocals.

The interesting, retro-sounding 'The Hunger That Never Sleeps' also has a Sonic Youth feel, as well as sounding a bit like The Velvet Underground with its urgent guitar work, droning layers and tinkling sound effects. It also features Delgado doing Patti Smithesque talking over the top, engaging the listener with its opening line description of a dream.

Elsewhere, Lamentine (one of the most Cave-like songs) has an effective use of strings, adding urgency and drama to a story about murder befalling a young woman, but falls down on a slighty irritating chorus featuring the words "me oh my!", which Delgado has a habit of rather over-emphasising. The same could be said of 'Don't Sleep', which has nicely building verse with subtle guitar-work and nice pizzicatoed strings, and which shows off Delgado's versatility as a vocalist (at one point she sounds like Loreena McKennit when she breaks into her higher range ), but which again has an off-putting chorus.

Delgado is not as good at doing rousing songs as she is dark songs, so 'Sing You Through the Storm' sounds rather trite. Its derivative-sounding, 'uplifting' coda ("We all break sometimes/ but we get through"), complete with triumphant trumpet solo, feels stuck in to break up all that melancholia and darkness permeating the album. The fact is I like the melancholia and darkness, so I don't need a break from it. However, 'Sunrise', another rare hopeful song, is more effective with its driving, crescendoing guitars and solid bassline. I also like 'Dark Waltz', a beautiful interlude which shows off Delgado's talent on the piano and which improvises its melodies around songs on the album. It also sounds alternatively like something Yann Tiersen may have written for Amélie and something played in a Berlin bar in the 30s - both good things.

The last half of the album is also picked up by songs such as 'Scoundrelle', which reminds me of Madam and PJ Harvey in its sinister mood, with Delgado playing well the part of a jealous, angry lover warning an ex to stay away, and features an excellently emotive vocal performance and well-placed piano solo. While 'Ménage a Moi' is a gloriously upbeat 60s-sounding tribute to Serge Gainsbourg, a playfully erotic tale of getting off to sex texts, and Trying to Forget is a haunting romantic ballad about being unable to let go of a former lover ("I'm rearranging faces so they look like you") which has a nice Latin-sounding piano-line and good use of cello.

There are very promising things here, despite the faults, and with all those influences it will certainly be interesting to see where the next album takes her.

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