Spectral chanteuse stirs wartime ghosts
‘Coquette’ is a record that has come unstuck in time. It’s a World War II concept album, one imbued with sensuality and loss and passion, not so much evoking as conjuring the period, its sounds and smells, its ghosts. But it’s not a stoic, stuffy period piece. Actually it’s one of the most vibrantly alive records I’ve heard in a long while, a kaleidoscopic swirl of sounds and ideas, a sexy and powerfully strange song cycle tempered by an aching melancholy, never lapsing into sentimentality but still allowing itself moments of nostalgia. It smells of perfume mixed with sweat.
Subjects touched upon stay true to the wartime atmosphere. ‘Berliner Ring’ is a widescreen tribute to Marlene Dietrich, though one that is not framed posthumously. ‘Kommander’s Car’ is the vibrant, joyous story of four Auschwitz escapees, and feels to be constantly in motion. ‘The White Cliffs’ finds Ms. Carr in a more sombre mode as she recounts the suicide of an RAF widow, culminating heartbreakingly in a hope-blind rendition of ‘We’ll Meet Again.’
This is music to set oneself adrift upon, a sad erotic trip, sleepy and strange. Closing track ‘Sleepyhead’ acts like a lullaby, and as the listener drifts away they may feel the mesmerising dreamscape Ms. Carr has woven being wrapped just that little bit tighter around them.