Michelle Blades - Visitor (Midnight Special Records)

Michelle Blades – Visitor (Midnight Special Records)

Up until now, Panama has only really been famous for an 82km canal, and for the hats. But even the hats don’t really count, because they originated from Ecuador. So the canal it is then. Well, that and being rubbish at last year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia. But given the strength of the latest album from Michelle Blades, part Mexican, part Panamian, this is surely about to change.

It’s a feisty little demon of a record, beginning with the brilliant ‘Politic‘, which is like if Young Marble Giants became disillusioned with the minimalistic approach and decided to go balls out for something approaching the much missed Au Pairs instead.

There are subtle undercurrents of Latin America all over this record, however, and this sets it well apart from any contemporaries, so while you could reasonably suggest that a song like ‘Dr Psych‘ possesses a dramatic bent comparable to say, Anna Calvi or even Siouxsie Sioux at times, Blades manages to avoid sounding too much like either of them, nor anybody else, for that matter. Listening to the hypnotic, repetitive rhythms of ‘Piri Piri‘ though, and her delightfully fidgety, shrill vocal leaps, perhaps her closest peer in that respect would be Cate Le Bon.

There’s still room for showstopping tunes like ‘Acid On The Hillside‘, almost Shirley Bassey like in its Bond theme style composition, Blades’ deliciously smoky tones sounding like she’s just inhaled a spliff full of the finest nectar.

Visitor is one of those rare breeds – an album loaded with commercial promise, but with enough nous about it to ensure that things are never predictable, as evidenced by the somewhat skewiff, dizzying guitars of instrumental ‘Dr Psych Sur La Plage‘, which makes you feel like you’ve stumbled drunkenly down to the beach at 5am, collapsing at the seafront, while the following gentle tones of the 58 second ‘Literally‘ is like the waves lapping at you peacefully to warn you to wake up before the ocean swallows you whole. And that’s without even mentioning the insanely catchy ‘Kiss Me On The Mouth‘ with its ever so slightly off kilter refrain.

There is something deeply satisfying about Visitor, and it holds enough intrigue for the discerning listener to find something new to love with each subsequent airing. A triumph in every respect.

Visitor is released on 29th March through Midnight Special Records.

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