Obadi Diablo - Suzie Stapleton (Beast Records)
No one really sounds quite like Suzie Stapleton. Being an original artist, that is a supreme compliment. Suzie also really takes risks with her music - and that is another compliment.
In every case on this EP on French label Beast Records, this Melbourne singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer creates a unique mixture of ambiance, darkness, and impassioned vocals, layered with her guitar playing. This is urgent brittleness, and at all times utterly compelling.
I caught Stapleton live a couple of weeks ago and was stunned by her intensity and complete commitment as an artist: for forty minutes, on a bill mixed which featured high powered street level bands: it was her sonic mixture of guitars, sense of light and shade. Impassioned vocals. A shining light. This mini album does not me let me down.
“Obadi Diablo” opens with the most unusual song: “My Cons Are Making A Cripple Out Of Me” is loose, dramatic and builds and builds. Underpinned by the repeated arpeggio. The guitars screech and are harsh, brutal and layered. “Song of the Artesian writer” is an adaption of a Banjo Paterson poem begins with a minimal three notes, underpinned again with violent guitars. Halfway through piano adds tension. Suzie’s tale of murder and hell that knocks Nick Cave into his corner of amateurish Year 10 private school play night.
“Bring Back The Night” opens with guitar that hails straight from the Go Between’s early days. Unlike their sugary layers, this layered with vinegar, in which gain builds and builds. Again this followed by “Hit” features more traditional Rock God guitars and again soars.
“The Last Note” is a beautiful song and has been on repeat for days, melancholic, sensitive. Again, it would so easy for her to make this song radio-friendly, with standard folk pop production, but no, we are taken to the edges, and the song is pushed into darkness. Suzie’s main quality? It would be so simple come up with clichés, in her choice, to use the instruments not as much accompaniment but to simply play a tune, but she chooses to create thoughtful layers of textures to add drama. Not unlike later Tom Waits recordings. And the lyrics: she is a quality wordsmith.
One of the dilemmas many independent artists out there face is raising the funds for recording and then putting their own music out and achieve quality recordings. If there is any weakness on the record (and Suzie mixed the songs herself), there is at times a lack of separation. The music is pushed to the cliff’s edge, and with this sonic soundscape, her music really lends itself to even more lush recordings and maybe strings.
That aside Suzie Stapleton’s music is significant, an original mix of emotions and anarchic beauty that owes its lineage to the chaotic side of the Velvet Underground: the John Cale-influenced Velvets. Yes, there is hint of PJ Harvey, Patti Smith, and a dash of SST era Sonic Youth and finally the ambient British bands - for example, This Mortal Coil. Overall a wonderful record. It deserves attention.