“Songs for Persephone,” Mimi Goese & Ben Neill (Ramseur)
“Songs for Persephone” is high-concept music teased at by the cover photo of a split pomegranate, the fruit that bound the Greek goddess Persephone to Hades. The performance-art release, compiled by Mimi Goese & Ben Neill from their multimedia musical theater piece “Persephone,” reflects classical music and the 19th century Romantic era. Lyrically, vocalist Goese explores existence in the mundane, her words adrift in abstract observations.
The good news is listeners don’t have to have degrees in philosophy, music history or mythology to appreciate this bewitching project.
Goese is one of those rarefied singers with cult-following potential, her associations with Hugo Largo and Hector Zazou leading to “Songs for Persephone,” where she echoes 1990s-era Jane Siberry. Her breathtaking, arching refrain “For all the love” on opener “Roma” is icon-making stuff, followed by the wrenching kicker, “We all need a little kindness now and then.”
Instrumentalist Neill — working with guest cellists, a drummer and a bass player — creates an air of electronic chill and glitchy distractions in his programming, and he layers in his own “mutantrumpet,” an electronic-acoustic hybrid whose tone is both lonely and surreal.
Goese’s metaphysical mission is delineated on “Cusp”: “I rove the universe collecting thoughts and memories,” her gorgeous and clear voice leading her to consider deeper meaning in the stealthy ways of a river on the pulsing “Resonata,” to contemplate an out-of-context keepsake box pulled from a fire on “A Lovely Goodbye” and to mourn a dying sparrow on the moving “Elegy.”
If you open your mind to Goese and Neill, they’ll likely open your heart.
Rating (five possible): 4