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Ai Phoenix | The Driver Is Dead (Racing Junior)
From the prolific musical environs of Bergen, Norway comes the latest album by Ai Phoenix, fronted by the enigmatic Mona Mørk, a mysterious chanteuse who's darkly gothic lyrics are delivered in an unsettling yet seductive voice. "I sing you a love song / You don't have to come along / We don't have to get along / You may think of anyone / I think of someone" is the entire lyric to Volga Beach Hotel, the most direct of a dozen tracks that barely rise above the funereal in pace. With the intimacy of Lisa Germano and the otherworldyness of Mazzy Star, Mørk and her accomplaces subtly draw you into their world, their "gothic scenery" as We Think You Are Very Brave would have it known. Her stock in trade is the rhyming non-sequiter ("Loneliness. Chess. God bless."), the phonetically correct ("Flowerstorm is here / Sweet smell of soil") and occasionally evocative turn of phrase ("I'm standing on a bridge between a hundred lies", together creating a potentially pretentious dialogue to rival Blonde Redhead's largely nonsensical vocabulary. Thankfully Mørk's mumbled delivery covers any such cracks in her wordy landscape and mixes gloriously with the understated yet studied instrumentation. "What does it mean / What in the world does it amount to?"

Matt Dornan
CWAS #6 - Autumn 2000