Mae Karthauser - Atlas 
Mae Karthasuer - Atlas

I've been listening to this album for a couple of months now. In fact, when this album arrived I wasn't a dad and now I am so it's been a little while. The reason I haven't got around to reviewing this is the same reason you buy an amazing pair of shoes and then don't wear them for months - I've been waiting for the right time, the right frame of mind to come over to find the words to do this album by Totnes based Mae Karthauser the justice it so richly deserves. 'Atlas' is an eleven track from an unsigned artist, that's the bottom line, but the subtext is that 'Atlas' is a collection of stories, observations and personal tales of love and loss that has been a lifetime in the making. Today is the day, however, when everything is just right and I might just - just - be able to do this collection justice.

The album opens with the unassumingly titled 'Bill', a tale of a man who lives in the woods and is a potentially misunderstood character told over gentle instrumentation and the soft, inviting voice of Ms Karthauser. 'Little Weasel' is a forlorn story of wanting to keep a small rodent but knowing that it really belongs in the wild - the sort of song that could only be composed by someone who spends a lot of time living in a caravan in the wilds of Devon (I mean, you wouldn't get this from Rhianna or Usher, would you?). On 'Nancy' you are immediately transported in to the unwritten sequel to Amelie with French inspired melodies and gentle, delicate structures that dance around like the last beams of sunlight as night falls. The owl hoots that herald 'Your Name (The Guns)' are a fantastically clever device that set the song firmly in the night time as the organs nudge the melody along subtly until the addition of more voices forces the song to grow, swell and take on a stronger form.

Mae Karthauser - the performer
Karthauser's style is so finely honed and gentile that you'd be forgiven for taking her for a flimsy, soft touch but there is a sharp edge to her mind which, sometimes, gets brandished via her words. 'One Animal' could be mistaken for another song about country wildlife but there is a sharp undercurrent in the words "I don't know one animal who pays to live in England, tell me how we would implement that? Those poor sods ain't got money" which hits at the heart of the immigration phobic mob mentality. The music is so wonderfully theatrical with clunks, whirrs and a sinister fairground melody that says 'get too close and I you might get burnt by the light'. The East European influence of the piano melody on 'The Persian Boy' is an absolute delight to behold as Karthauser sings of the loss of her cat while 'The Last Turn' opens with some seductive, siren-like vocal harmonies that drift out over the coast to soothe the tortured souls of sailors and fishermen alike.

The real source of talent here is that these songs feel almost timeless, like they could have been created at any point in the last 100 years, but the relevance is still there at the heart of the art which draws you closer and closer with every track. The piano on 'My Old Compass', for example, was surely locked in an attic for years until it was wheeled out for this very purposed. 'Hoops Of Fire' is a gypsy tune of sinister delights that create mischief for all to revel in during the night but be warned, your soul might not make it to daybreak. Towards the end we have 'Georgia And The Tiger', which takes on the form of a soft, butterfly-like tune gently flitting around in the sunlight but occasionally it comes too close to your face and startles you causing that rush of adrenalin to your head and heart. The album finishes on 'reprise' which is the soft, heartfelt goodbye you say to your loved one on a train platform before what you know will be a long parting.

I've purposefully kept this away from comparisons as Karthauser is so genuinely unique (and uniquely genuine) that it seems fairly futile as an exercise. What I would say is that if this music can get to the right ears and Karthauser can get on the right stages then this could be the kind of album will eventually become one of those must haves. Then again, I don't think that's the plan so as long as Mae Karthauser is happy and occasionally able to put out an album of this quality then all is well with the world.

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