Effi Briest Effi BriestRhizomes
Effi Briest is a distant relative of Emma Bovary, an adulterous woman trapped in a portrait of a society on which the mosh garish colours are the ones that talk about the appearances of the community and the false morality. Our public image is often the antithesis of what we really are. On this album, and with the voice of Kelsey Barrett, the group are able to transmit the same interior desperation as the itch of a mosquito bite. It’s an encephalic gnashing of teeth and a tantrum expressed bitterly by lengthening canticles and with almost martial drumrolls. “Rhizomes”, then, is a dark, torturous album, but with an open heart. A tormented person opening their arms to fatalism (imagine Strindberg abandoned to his paranoia in a hotel room on a stormy night, and “Rhizomes” would be the perfect soundtrack).
Besides cataloguing the album as krautrock (or influenced by it), there are the typical arrangements and constructions of progressive rock and psychedelic post-punk (in “Cousins”, the most Can-like of the songs, the sound effect that results from Barrett’s shouts over a guitar solo, confusing us for a few moments, making us think that either Barrett has a plastic throat, or we’re listening to the hypnotic singing of a whale). There is a calm and an exceptional control of the tempo, which tends towards a slow development and diaphanous sound, and which keeps Effi Briest from taking a detour into noise (in fact, they go in more for atmospheres, like Arthur Russell). But, again, what is powerful here is Barrett’s expressivity and the sadness of a black eye, which burns after a minute (in “Rhizomes”), heavy basses, and the omnipresence of guitars with arpeggios and military drums (listen to This Heat and Bush Tetras). Sometimes in a chorus ( “New Quicksand”), at times only instrumental ( “X”), and almost always atonal, heightening the feeling of tarry fear that sticks like a leech (in “Long Shadow” Barrett starts to howl in a painful manner).
One of the strongest sides of Effi Briest (setting aside all debates about the originality of their sound, or whether they’re a particularly modern group), is that they use all their resources to focus the expression of what they want to transmit to us. They squeeze the last droplet of goodness from their credentials until after listening to the record it mutates into a deformed amalgam, with all the characteristics we have already talked about here. And in spite of it all, we’ll listen to it again precisely for that reason: because they have managed to make it an interesting trip, despite what we see pass by outside, through the window. They do this with palindromes, (see the title of the song “Mirror Rim,” for example) or with the echoes of an organ with reverb in what sounds like a space symphony ( “Nights”). They can sing a deranged, raging mass hymn (in “Shards”) with moments of terrible beauty in the low points that there are in some songs, and which are only made up of a guitar and Barrett’s voice.
At the beginning, we were talking about appearances and the public image that we offer to others, and this reminds me of Public Image Ltd., the John Lydon project, born of the same ashes as Effi Briest, and like Miss Barrett’s musical personality can be compared with Ari Up & The True Warriors (or The Slits). It might be true that they don’t invent anything, but they make all the depressed Madame Bovary’s frustrations their own, and they shake them to wake them up from a dream that turned into a nightmare a long time before they wanted them to, with much more passion and credibility that other post-punk bands.