18 Carat Garbage
Billie Ray Martin 18 CARAT GARBAGE (Sonnenstahl Records) 'to describe Billie Ray Martin's sound as soulful would be an understatement. She has the sort of voice normally unheard outside gospel choirs and churches, unless you're listening to aretha franklin and mahalia Jackson, that is.' the sunday times magazine to anyone with a soul, the return of Billie Ray Martin is long overdue. Where the average soul singer seems content to substitute bluster for raw emotion, billie's voice taps into and lays bare long-withheld feelings, deep-seated memories, and passions beyond your wildest dreams... put simply, this woman has the power to make you howl like a baby. Forming electribe 101 in 1989, billie gave dance music fans something to think about. Their first single, 'talking with myself', rode the crest of deep house wave with highly individual style. It's striking blend of billieÂ´s oblique, other-worldly vocals and lush electro had critics thumbing their thesauruses ragged, leading to it unanimously declared one of the finest records of the decade. Two more hits and an album followed, as did a depeche mode support tour slot. But, in 1992, billie left the group to follow her muse at leisure, a muse that has been leading her down curiouser and curiouser alleyways since infancy. Billie grew up in hamburgs red light district with her working-class grandparents, who bombarded her with elvis- and German schlager-music and otherwise worked hard at keeping her away from the hookers and harbour-workers, that made up the rest of the family. Billie had every beatles and stones single in her collection by the time she was five years old. Even first demos were made at this tender age. Her teenage years were taken up by an obsession with the songs of elton john, which was soon to be discarded for a lifestyle of punk, which she lived to the limit in Hamburg and London. In the early 80's billie moved to Berlin and had her musical sensibilities tweaked yet again: it was the time of the electronic invasion by bands like cabaret voltaire, throbbing gristle and the early human league. BillieÂ´s conceptions of music were changed entirely. At the same time she was confronted consciously for the first time with soul music in the form of martha reeves and the vandellas and aretha. The goal became clear: after a fruitful time of learning, during which she formed a number of soul and sixties garage oriented r&b bands (billie and the deep, an eleven piece soul band with a garage sound, cleaned up in Berlin in 1986/86) billie moved to London with one mission: to fuse soul and elecronics (the intellectual and the emotional, how she puts it) in completely new ways. Her move couldn't have been more timely. The arrival of house from Chicago in the shape of fingers inc. And countless other pioneers allowed billie to discover where her musical future lay. The rest, as they say... since electribe's break-up billie has not only released two monumentally beautiful records ('four ambient tales' and the thoroughly scary 'persuasion', made with the grid and spooky respectively), but hit the international biz-jackpot they call the charts with her smash-hit of 1996. 'your loving arms', a europe-wide number one and a top thirty USA hit, it allowed billie to tour extensively. The album 'deadline for my memories' (east west) followed; a collection of soaring, sting-in-tail reflections on the subjects of unrequited love and the bizarre in everyday life. The album explored her vision to create music that is equal parts kraftwerk and phil spector. Enthusiastically received, sold out shows confirmed that she had hit a nerve in a public gasping for something real. The nerve is still throbbing... on the new album, '18 carat garbage', billie has once again developed and to a point perfected, her dream of 'memphis meets deutschland'. The basis of the songs were recorded in memphis, Tennessee with the legendary hi-musicians and members of aretha's backing band. The legendary house of blues studios became the playground for billie's unorthodox visions, surprising and amusing the traditionally geared memphis players. A duet with billie's favorite singer, soul legend ann peebles ('i can't stand the rain') on the album's title song makes the buff's heart jump for joy and a lifetime dream come true for billie. Experimental elecronic sounds were added to each song respectfully and only as the last Polish to the (much more than 18 carat) diamond. The first single: 'i've never been to memphis', could have well been penned by al green, if it was not billie's very own personal story, oozing out of every line and refusing to submit to even the occasional soul music cliché. most notably apparent on this album is the ease with which memphis soul influences and electronics (even drum and bass) blend seamlessly into a flowing whole. Co-producer felix huber, member of the German band plexiq, was instrumental in making this possible with his radical approach to billie's songs. Gospel-influenced songs like 'ten minutes on a tuesday afternoon in buffalo' will make floods of tears gush out of the hard-trained hipness-victim's eyes with it's sheer truth and emotion. A timely reminder that Billie Ray Martin has for some years now produced some truly unique and timeless work. Prepare for success.