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Everyone's a Critic

The Observer's culture blog

Monday, October 18, 2010

THE ARK CATCHES THE WAVE, by James M. Manheim

Kim Richey's show at the Ark on Sunday, October 17, marked a small milestone for people who keep track of such things: it was notable for its thoroughgoing inclusion of electronic sounds, provided by a keyboardist. Richey came out of country music, had some hits in that genre in the 1990s, and still writes lyrics informed by country conventions and ideas.

But she's always been on the music's progressive edge, and now she's in middle age and no longer the going thing. What does a musician with an innovative nature hear when she looks out into the world, opens her ears to new sounds, and tries to find the important kernel in current trends? It's the collection of techniques that are called electronica when they're banged out in a dance club and avant-garde when they're stripped down to chamber pop dimensions.

Richey doesn't just dress up her country tunes with electronic beats but has begun to write songs around those beats, including a lovely one about going for a walk in the snow at midnight in London that would have lost something if played by just guitars and drums. The onstage manipulation of electronic sound is already quite common in music made by young people, and it's finding its way into broader popular traditions as well. It's the wave of the future.


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