Rykarda Parasol just released For Blood and Wine at the end of October. Much like her debut Our Hearts First Meet (one of my Top 2006 albums), the new song set delves into a noirish rock sound with lyrics that alternate between whiskey-splashed cabaret and blood-soaked Gothic poetry. In addition to writing and producing the new disc, Parasol has also independently released it as she searches for a new label.
the ivory lace was woven as a crawler’s web
the dress be bone, though my sash was rose-ed red
white henry in my hair and sapporo lily in my hand
at twenty and one hope is plenty – unrest hard to fathom
From the eerie opening wails of “The Road is Long” through the gritty rock of “A Drinking Song,” For Blood and Wine is propelled by the dusky power of Rykarda’s voice.
Delicate piano winds through the beautiful and menacing “Widow in White,” which calls to mind Nick Cave’s murder ballad “Where the Wild Roses Grow.” Militant drum and a backing choir of male voices help shape the stunning “One For Joy!” into an ominous sea chantey. The two songs are my personal favorites on the album.
Just when tracks like “Oh My Blood” push the album to the edge of the blackest abyss, the sweet tones of “My Spirit Lives in Shadows” and “Je Suis Une Fleur” bring it back into murky light. Then the finale “Kindness, You’re Killing Me” breaks free of the album’s prevailing darkness with a gentle, melancholic folk strum.
I was not granted permission to share a full mp3 from the album, but Rykarda did provide the following mp3 clip and video. You can also hear more samples at the links below.
It still astounds me that artists whose music I love actually read what I write, let alone follow my advice. I recommended Contrast Podcast to Devon Sproule and Rykarda Parasol, and I’m thrilled to find that they both submitted intros for the latest “Musicians Introduce Their Own Songs” episode:
Contrast Podcast – Musicians Introduce Their Own Songs (mp3 removed)
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Rykarda Parasol is a modern day Marlene Deitrich. With a resonate vocal depth that rivals Concrete Blonde’s Johnette Napolitano and a bluesy Gothic cabaret style that calls to mind the murder ballads of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Rykarda’s Our Hearts First Meet is a dark and haunting rock noir masterpiece. Parasol has shared the stage with Frank Black, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Kristen Hersh‘s 50 Foot Wave, Jolie Holland, and the aforementioned Johnette Napolitano. Concrete Blonde has long been one of my favourite bands, and it’s almost unnerving how much Parasol’s husky, detached voice sounds like Napolitano.
The moody “Hannah Leah” creeps in with a languid guitar strum beneath Rykarda’s rich voice before unleashing a choir of ghostly wails. “Arrival, A Rival” is another highlight with a sparse tumbleweed guitar twang churning with elegant piano into an eerie crescendo that would do Siouxsie Sioux & The Banshees proud.
“Night on Red River” kicks up the rock rhythm for a wailing PJ Harvey sound, while songs like “Lullaby for Blacktail” and “Candy Gold” barely lighten the mood with swaying and swaggering beats.
Parasol’s lyrics are poetic, ominous, and often morbid. The funeral of a friend in “En Route” and the racial violence of the Langston Hughes inspired “Lonesome Place” each paint a vivid portrait of death. But it’s Rykarda’s slinky, smokey voice that holds you captive, particularly when she plays the love-scorned narrator of “How Does A Woman Fall?” and the world-weary traveller in “Texas Midnight Radio”.