Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

January 21–28, 1999

disc quicks|pop/rock

The Hope Blister

… smile's ok

(4AD/Mammoth)


 

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Ivo Watts-Russell, the founder of 4AD records and organizer of the serene, crotchety "group" This Mortal Coil, takes another stab at making gauzy, ethereal music with The Hope Blister. Here, Watts-Russell pays tribute to and covers songs by the Cranes and Mojave 3 as well as avant-rock masters Brian Eno, David Sylvian and John Cale. In several of these versions a string quartet is supported by bass and saxophone—and all of the tracks move at a glucose drip's pace. With no break between songs, … smile's ok becomes a chamber suite with near-religious overtones marked by a chilling, minimalist hum. From the "No Quarter"-like swelling of "Dagger" to the classical Indian din of "Is Jesus Your Pal," Blister's wash of reverberations have the effect of a skin-soaking rain. Mortal Coil vocalist Louise Rutkowski's mezzo-soprano moves with slippery grace. Like a curl slowly falling from one's head, Rutkowski winds her way down through Eno's expressionist nightmare "Spider and I," Cale's faux-gospel "Hanky Panky Nohow" and Sylvian's impressionist daydream "Let The Happiness In" with uncertainty. Quieter than an Irish quake but just as dour, … smile's ok is the perfect album to have on when the lights are out.

-a.d. amorosi

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