Globelamp is the solo project of Elizabeth Le Fey. Her latest album, The Orange Glow, was created through what she describes as, “deep collaboration” with producer Joel Jerome.
The music of Globelamp is in many ways the music of contrasts, using very little in the way of instrumentation, Elizabeth creates beautiful rich tapestries of musical exploration. Most tracks are built around little more than a skeletal percussion, a twinkling piano, or a gently strummed guitar; yet they form into dense soundscapes. Often it’s the clever production and the layering of the vocal that is key; at times the listener is treated to a barrage of vocal lines, as if listening to a one woman orchestra. Stylistically the music touches on numerous elements of what we loosely call folk, variously nodding in the direction of the freak-folk of Cocorosie, the piano balladeering of Amanda Palmer, and even some more pastoral-psychedelic offerings that suggest an appreciation of either Pentangle or Led Zeppelin at peak Lord Of The Rings.
Elizabeth is from the rather brilliantly named city of Mission Viejo. The city is located in Orange County, California, has a population of around 96,000 and is considered to be one of the largest “master-planned-communities” ever built; we assume that means it’s a bit like a massive Milton Keynes. A former sheep and cattle grazing land, the city only began to grow during the 1980’s, much of its growth at the behest of urban planner, Donald Bren, who’s obsession with Spanish architecture can be seen in many of the cities buildings. Famous residents of the city included very fast athlete Florence Griffith Joyner, original Buffy The Vampire Slayer actress Kristy Swanson, and Courtland Mead, child actor/voice-over artist, who’s roles include an unnamed voice in Bugs Life, a dog in Babe and Gus from Recess! Musical offspring of Mission Viejo include one-time Guns’n’Roses drummer, Matt Sorum and One Republic’s second drummer, Eddie Fisher; honestly we did try to find some more impressive musicians.
The earliest Globelamp release can be traced back to a self-titled EP that came out in 2011. A debut full-length, Star Dust, came out via Gazelle Recordings in the summer of 2014, and was followed in the winter by a covers album including reworkings of tracks by artists as diverse as Anastasia, Donovan and Elliot Smith. Globelamp has since signed to Wichita Recordings, who will release her second album, The Orange Glow, this week.
The story of The Orange Glow, Globelamp’s latest album, is a very personal and emotive one. It covers the death of Elizabeth’s best (Maia Hisamoto to whom the album is dedicated) and the very messy and public demise of an abusive relationship (as Elizabeth discussed very openly HERE). Sometimes in music the story isn’t particularly important, but in the case of The Orange Glow, it somehow the context seems important. The anger, pain and resolution that flow across the album present the listener with a cohesive narrative, this is no over-wrought story though, this is simply real life. It’s because of that fact that the tales within The Orange Glow ring so true, and so movingly, that the album is such a powerful body of work.
It would be easy to listen to this album and hear cryptic, almost fairy-tale, musings of faerie queens, ancient aching’s and warnings not to go into the woods alone at night, but that is just the fantasy, The Orange Glow, that draws us away from reality. This an album that longs for escapism, but ultimately on a regular basis falls back into the all too real horrors of everyday living, as Elizabeth sings on The Negative, “you can’t control what you don’t understand, the mystery will always have an upper hand.” There’s a desire for mystery and distraction, but ultimately reality wins out. When not retreating into mystery the album faces reality head on; Controversial/Confrontational pairs thunderous drums and scratchy guitars work, with a deceptively sweet vocal melody that sugar coats a painful deceit, “men cannot be trusted and I know women too, but I, I believed you.” Contrastingly, Piece Of The Pie makes no attempt to sugar coat the anger; a grimy slice of scuzz-punk it finds Elizabeth spitting out lyrics laced with the purest resentment, “how do you live with the lies you’ve told?” It’s oddly fun to listen to, the musical definition of cathartic.
Elsewhere the emotions are more mixed, more nuanced; Master Of Lonely is tinged with a sadness for what was lost, Elizabeth noting, “the wonderful colours of loving you have all turned into grey.” There’s also a certain feeling of acceptance and strength here, “don’t worry about me, I’m doing just fine, I’ve got some anonymous psychiatrist to analyse my mind.” This is a feeling that is repeated across many of the songs, yes it’s littered with pain, but there’s also a very real feeling of strength, that for all the attempts to silence and break her, she will just come out stronger and more determined.
The strength to return to a place of happiness is at the heart of the album’s finest moment, Artist/Traveller. A heavily processed piano rings out, supported by a light, almost absent-minded acoustic guitar that gently plucks out rhythmic bass notes. It’s a song that swoops and soars, with a playful meandering tempo that occasionally threatens to fade away entirely, but somehow keeps smouldering on. Lyrically it touches on the idea that we are all just a result of the experiences we have lived through, “remember every scar if you’re a sculptor, your memory is the pen if you’re a writer, your body is the tool if you’re a dancer, your brush strokes show your soul if you’re a painter.” In art perhaps Globelamp has discovered a way to move through her pain, and in doing so she has shared something rather wonderful with the world.
The folksy, Midsummer Night’s Dream-like exterior may put some people off, but delve into The Orange Glow and it’s hard to find anything but admiration for this truly unique artistic talent.
The Orange Glow is out June 10th via Wichita Recordings. Click HERE for all upcoming Globelamp shows.