I am a bit late to this release but, really, don't let that diminish the importance of this statement: Malenkost by Cindy Lee is one of the most striking and original albums I've heard so far in 2017. Released on the W.25TH imprint of the Superior Viaduct label a few weeks back, Malenkost is a set of near-otherworldly recordings which are the fruits of the creativity of Patrick Flegel, previously of the Canadian band Women. He has here crafted some incredibly distinctive work, work that defies easy description, frankly.
If "No Worth No Cost" bristles with the slightest hint of the sort of early Joy Division-kind of approach to post-punk, the beautiful-and-strange "Always Lovers" recalls Broadcast, or even tunes from that "Radiator Lady" in Eraserhead (1977). At their best, Cindy Lee can marry discordant noise with more accessible elements to produce something nearly accessible ("Hopeless In A Trance"), while at other times the elements that seem so harsh are put into the service of songs that, like those on the first His Name Is Alive album, skirt at the edges of both ethereal rock and more conventional forms of alt-rock ("I've Seen His Face Before", "A Message From The Aching Sky"). Still, despite the moments of nearly obviously lovely music here on Malenkost, there are others ("Coroner Of The State") that suggest the pervasive and huge influence -- (understandably so, of course) -- of both early Velvet Underground releases, as well as pre-VU John Cale recordings. Similarly, "Death Sentence" near the end of this long-player clearly owes a huge debt to Cale-produced Nico stuff, the icy beauty here positively dripping out of the speakers (or headphones, as may be the case).
In spots, Flegel's approach seems to be a near-avant-garde one, the music harsh on purpose as the more conventional moments are subsumed in clanging noise. At other times, Flegel allows the beauty of the compositions to be highlighted, even as a near-Shaggs-like sense of abandon pervades the performances, however briefly. Malenkost is very nearly impossible to describe, as you've seen if you've read this review, but it remains one of the few truly original releases of the first half of 2017.
Malenkost by Cindy Lee is out now via Superior Viaduct.
[Photo: Superior Viaduct]