Trembling Blue Stars: Broken by Whispers
By biconews On 15 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Ariel Hansen

I didn’t know who Trembling Blue Stars were, and I bet you don’t either. I hadn’t even heard of lead singer Bob Wratten’s former band The Field Mice. And on first listen to his new album Broken by Whispers, I was less than impressed.

However, the album is growing on me. Lyrics that would seem banal and prosaic if they were in the liner notes are imbued with something deeper through Wratten’s quiet, unassuming voice. He has a pop sensibility, but it is tempered by a realism about emotional life that becomes apparent through the course of the songs.

Even better than that, the instrumentals are both complementarily unassuming and full of inventive brilliance. Sensitive drums and intriguing chord progressions combine with backup vocals to make something that is eminently listenable to.

The fourth track, “to leave it now,” has Wratten echoed by a woman speaking the lyrics he is singing in French, their voices interwoven so well that you end up listening to the resonances they produce rather than the lyrics themselves. This isn’t a bad thing, but an opportunity to just let the music soak in and appreciate how Wratten ties together instrumentation and vocals almost seamlessly.

“dark eyes” is another noteworthy track - probably why it was released as a single several months ago. In some ways, it is more popularly accessible than some of the other songs on this album, with clearly defined chord progressions and almost catchy vocals. As a side note, the backup vocals here are those of Annemari Davies, with whom Wratten was involved for years and only recently broke up with; some of the pain shows through. The lyrics are distinct and straightforward, and the song as a whole sounds more polished than others. But in reaching this somewhat common denominator, Wratten loses some of the interesting experimentation evident in this album.

The first song on the album, “ripples,” opens with a quiet background of birdsong and simple strumming, occasionally breaking into faster and more complicated guitarage. The lyrics have some noteworthy moments, including the opening:

I want to write songs about

two strangers starting out

It’s been a long time since I felt

It’s time you knew as well

I want to lose myself within

the smallest details of your life

let them assume an importance in mine.

lncidenta!ly [sic], I like where the band got its name: “It’s perfectly true that eyes can look like stars: hers resembled trembling blue stars,” from The Story of 0 by Pauline Reage, according to Wratten.

There are a lot of people out there who wouldn’t like Trembling Blue Stars at all, and frankly, I don’t find it that memorable. I can think of times when I would choose to make this album one of the five CDs in my changer, and a track or two might be nice for a quiet mixed tape, but it isn’t going to be a regular part of my listening pleasure. I don’t recommend listening to “Broken by Whispers” if you want an energetic pick-me-up or a dance beat, but I can tell you from experience that it is great music to fall asleep to.

2.5 outta 5.

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