Thirsty Desert
(Mostyn Sound, 1997)

Throughout history, there have been a few people that could be referred to as "Renaissance men/women." These are people who decided for one reason or another to try as many different creative outlets or professions as possible. The greats that come to mind are Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Michelangelo. You even see it in music -- artists such as Willie Nelson and Madonna trying different styles to expand their talents. However, the ability and drive to do many different things does not always mean you are great at them. Even greats like Leonardo da Vinci had their successes and failures.

Which brings me to the artist known simply as Bisia. When I received her CD to review, I also received a large packet of information about what she does with her life -- interpretive dance, theater, vocal trainer, massage therapist, teacher, student, etc. Yet for all her many talents, I walked away from listening to her CD thinking that making music was not something she should continue to pursue.

She has an interesting vocal style -- I initially compared it to Enya meets Bobby McFerrin in a dark alley. But where Enya's smooth vocal blends soothe the ears and McFerrin's jazz scat abilities create an upbeat rhythm, combining the two as Bisia does is almost discordant. The majority of her lyrics consist of jazz-like vocal improvs with the song title, while the rest makes for interesting poetry.

I think it was about halfway through the album that I realized I was singing a song -- yet it was not one of Bisia's. It was Suzanne Vega's "Blood Makes Noise," probably because of the pervasive rhythmic drums, the pulse of her voice and the general feel of the music sound like that song repeated over and over. It was not the only song Bisia brought to mind. Her song "Slavic Waltz" had me humming "Carol of the Bells."

"Angels of Harmony" had me begging for something more cheerful. The spastic drumming on "Can't Let Go" brought to mind an image of British comic Rowan Atkinson banging away, with arms flailing all over the place. And in "Sophie's Nightmare" ... well, all I wrote down in my notes was "Dear god, she's singing again!"

Thirsty Desert is an odd mix of sounds, but I wouldn't necessarily call it good. The effect of many vocal layers employed by Bisia has been done before by other artists, and they've done it better. You use layering to create a mood -- Enya to create powerful choral effects to rouse or to sooth, Queen to bring operatic styles to the unwashed rock masses, and so forth. Bisia's style evokes an impatience to get the song over with. Usually at the end of my reviews I recommend the CD to certain groups, but I honestly cannot think of who would want to listen to this. Maybe some Bohemian club filled with smoke and snapping fingers. She works hard to project a spacey, new-age attitude so in vogue these days, yet just comes across as trying too hard.

[ by Timothy Keene ]