CD Review: Fiver “Lost the Plot”
Fiver is the solo project of Toronto-born and raised singer and songwriter Simone Schmidt, known for fronting The Highest Order (a band that just released its debut album, If It’s Real, back in March) and the acclaimed country outfit One Hundred Dollars. No matter which name she is performing under, two strengths of Schmidt’s that immediately arrest you are that voice – awesome and haunting, strong as oak but sanded with sublime vulnerability – and the palpable Dust Bowl-thick instrumental air that fleshes out the mood of every song. Each is so commanding that it’s a testament to her gifts for bleak, poetic firepower and sure-handed nuance that neither crumbles under the magnitude of the other.
The songs of Lost the Plot translate to mysterious forces akin to the spirits of Cormac McCarthy’s blood-soaked landscapes and purgatory-trapped lives within his timeless “Border Trilogy” or Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 masterwork of death in the heartland, Nebraska.The wonder of Schmidt’s voice cutting through the red-dirt-and-tar-black mood is how it can simultaneously evoke a funeral hymn for the newly dead sung over a dried-up riverbank, as well as an angelic beacon leading you away from all the imminent danger and heaviest of hearts. That show-stopping instrument calls to mind unforgettable voices as varied as Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star, Mark Kozelek, Stevie Nicks and Emmylou Harris, while her stories mine starker terrain populated by the ghosts of characters penned by Dylan, Lou Reed or Raymond Carver, amongst the McCarthy-hued atmosphere. Not bad for a Toronto-based songwriter and performer who, according to CBC, initially had her sights set on screen-printing and speech facilitation rather than music.
Schmidt’s fellow players (Paul Mortimer on guitar, Kyle Porter on bass, Simone Tisshaw-Baril on drums, and Toronto-based analog guru Stew Crookes contributing electric bass and handling the album’s excellent production) also make up The Highest Order and One Hundred Dollars in varying degrees. On Lost the Plot they barb Schmidt’s songs (tunes Schmidt brought to Fiver because she has amassed a strong collection of songs that were too dynamic to comfortably fit under more the more classically country or psych-country tags of her other bands) with just the right mix of ominous, spaghetti-western edge and clang and Badlands-wide space that allow Schmidt’s incredible voice to slice through the taut textures. They can rock with fiery precision (as on “Gone Alone” and snaking, jangling “Oh Sienna,” the ethereal spellbinder that served as the A-side to the outfit’s 2012 debut single, Two Songs from Fiver, and appears here as the lead-off track that draws you into Fiver’s world without reservation) and they can conjure mood and catharsis as the aural equivalent of smoldering ash and star-streaked, midnight-black skies (“Dayton,” “Undertaker,” “Lonesome in This Graveyard,” “Smoke and Steam”).
Lost the Plot is a revelatory music achievement that transcends ephemeral space and time and cuts to bone with commanding regularity. Fiver’s debut has the perfect amount of spirited grace and haunting atmosphere to be the western yin to the yang of Mount Moriah’s more Appalachian, kindred gem Miracle Temple, another of my favorite records this year.
There’s no simple way of relaying the black magic Fiver has put to two-inch tape on Lost the Plot without absorbing it into your daily life. No one can say whether your burdens will feel heavier or lighter once you do, but the true beauty of Lost the Plot lies in discovering that for yourself.
*This review first appeared on Division St. Harmony on August 15, 2013.
Listen/Download: Fiver – “Undertaker”
Fiver – “Oh Sienna” (Official Video)
*Justin is a featured contributor to No Depression, and he resides on the outskirts of Indianapolis in Noblesville, Indiana. He writes his own music blog Division St. Harmony (@DivisnStHarmony), and he has been a senior contributor to The Silver Tongue and Laundromatinee.
Justin has an affinity for writing and music that is both rich in head and heart. Feel free to follow him on Twitter at @clashrebel & @DivisnStHarmony and on Facebook.
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