The Hanging Garden CD

Here at last, the debut album by one-woman band Susi O' Neill, who is also known as Hypnotique. Titled "The Hanging Garden", the album will be available in a limited edition of a few hundred copies only.

First impressions of the packaging: the CD is stuck inside a folded paper sleeve that is held together by a simple, yet tricky mechanism: a purple ribbon runs through star-shaped holes in the cover and keeps the sleeve shut.

The whole album-cover is meticulously handcrafted, and one can almost imagine the artist sitting there in a poorly-lit room, bowed over a desk, folding and binding dozens of covers: a truly tiresome job. In order to get hold of the CD, you have to loosen the ribbon and unfold the sleeve - voilà, there you have a different cover picture: strange fruit growing on a tree... (as Billie Holiday would sing). It's not really shocking, but a mild surprise and an indicator that madame Hypnotique demands the listener's full attention, even before the first note has been struck.

As you might imagine, the music is not your average mainstream-fodder as well. All of the tunes have been composed, played and recorded by Hypnotique herself, which ensures her maximum artistic freedom and independence. Surely, with modern technical wizardry it is not all too difficult to orchestrate even complex arrangements by hitting the right keys on a computer keyboard, but Hypnotique actually prefers to play the instruments the good old traditional way. Apart from her voice, a couple of synthesizers, piano, clarinet, viola, and of course her cherished theremin are among the instruments Hypnotique has used on "The Hanging Garden".

"The Witch's Tale" opens the album, it is a strange love song with a sparse arrangement and Hypnotique reciting (rather than singing) the lyrics, while playing a haunting melody line on the theremin. "The King Never Died" brings in a little more noise and unrest, before the strange lullaby "The Once Man" continues the journey through the enchanted Hanging Garden. "Alphabetic" is a weird little piece: an alienated child-like voice from Outer Space repeatedly spelling the alphabet, accompanied by a telephone's dial-in beep sequence. "Last Wednesday" turns on a relaxed swing mode, while the vocal phrasing at times reminds a little of early Anne Clark.

"Dear Diana" is a mock ode to the legendary late princess of Wales and, apart from the cynical lyrics, features a waltz-like rhythm and some nice saxophone lines. Another homage follows, as the famous and glamorous Lithuanian theremin player Clara Rockmore (née Reisenberg) is remembered in "Clara De Lune" - not surprisingly, Hypnotique uses the theremin in this song to play some pretty sad melodies. "See Saw" is a brief interlude based on robots-gone-mad bleep sequences.

"Trust Me" delves into Hypnotique's wicked fantasies and lets us know she is in fact a pretty mean and dangerous woman, while the free-form instrumental "We Will Fight Them On The Beaches" treads on New Music/Avantgarde territory and expresses feelings of loneliness and yearning. "Winds Of Malcontent" is just another brief interlude, before the beautiful "Déjà Vu", a song about ambivalence and ambiguity, ends the trip through the Hanging Garden.

There's a lot to say about this "hanging garden", some parts of it are flooded by sunlight, while others feature dark corners and grottos. Expect poisonous plants and thickets as well. Whichever way you look at it, Hypnotique's Hanging Garden is beautifully laid out and definitely worth a visit.

Read more on Hynotique in this interview.

(rh 04/MMV)

Label: Lunette Records
>> Hypnotique's website

Strange fruit growing on a tree