Dayna Kurtz/My Brightest Diamond – [Split 7”]

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

You have to respect the chutzpah of an artist who chooses to work in the 7” vinyl medium. Think about it; basically, a band has little choice but to offer just two songs in hopes of establishing itself in a listener's mind. Even more daring are the groups who enter into a split 7” arrangement with another artist; then it's one side – one song – and the bands have to establish something memorable about themselves in hopes of not being overshadowed immediately by the proverbial other side – it's a potentially nerve-wracking experience.

That sort of plot gets even thicker when one looks at the “Gone Away” / “Postcards From Downtown” split single by Dayna Kurtz and My Brightest Diamond. In this case, not only do the artists limit themselves to one song, they've traded songbooks; here, Kurtz covers My Brightest Diamond and vice versa.

In spite of just how different both artists' styles normally are, they end up coming together with a surprisingly uniform and balanced performance here; the A-side belongs to Kurtz with a cover of My Brightest Diamond's “Gone Away” that strips the normally trip hop-py patterning that MBD singer Shara Worden usually employs in her songs and focuses on the lugubrious and draughty heart of the song. With nothing more than a banjo for accompaniment, Kurtz rifles through the months spent alone and the heartbreak that is the only thing the song's protagonist has to keep her warm at night. It's sadly beautiful in a Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” or Tom Waits, “Broken Bicycles” sort of way, and listeners will feel their hearts begin to weep when that banjo begins to thud through the chorus and the singer nearly spits lines like “You've gone away/Where there isn't a telephone wire/Still I wait by the phone/why don't you write?” in anguish before all those hearts break in the end as the singer bids that horrible man a tearful goodbye. In just three minutes and with no lead-up, Kurtz captures and holds listeners in the palm of her hand with just a hook of raw emotion and heartbreak and it's knee-buckling.

On her cover of “Postcards From Downtown,” My Brightest Diamond and singer Shara Worden only registers a hair less than Kurtz (likely due to the slightly less cathartic lyric sheet) as, with a skeletal acoustic guitar, some very spare and surrealist electronics and a will for the dramatic, Worden carefully drizzles out Kurtz' tale of woe before she too fades into the abyss. Where “Gone Away” can wrench hearts and articulate heartache, My Brightest Diamond's take on “Postcards From Downtown” ends as cool as death and really gives listeners a sense of finality in the end; on the second side, this single goes from heartbreaking to mournful easily, fluidly and beautifully.

Because the two sides fit together so well theatrically, the “Gone Away” / “Postcards From Downtown” single doesn't work like most split singles exactly; there is no one stand-out side, that they fuel and bolster each other to make a unified presentation that's theatrical in its' progression from A-side to B. It's an interesting play that hopefully others will pick up on and continue the tradition of – if these two artists don't do it themselves.



With a limited run of just 1000 copies, the “Gone Away” / “Postcards From Downtown” split 7” is not available on Amazon but can be found on the Rough Trade Shops website here . Buy it while you can.

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