Thursday, 20 September 2007

Sally SHAPIRO: Hold Me So Tight

This year’s “Young Folks” but with added “Pacific State” input? Think spiralling oceans of synths, limpid modulations through heartbreaking chord changes, stout Cortez looking over the roof of the disco and finding Avalon. The noble, lucidly dreamt poignancy of Global Communications, Lawrence (the German techno one, not the Felt/Denim/Go-Kart Mozart chap), Casinos Versus Japan, Jeff Mills with his XL3 bathing cap on…there is a certain kind of maximalistic, generously melodic techno to which I could listen and in which I could swim forever. Combine with the admirably hurt song structures of the Pet Shop Boys at their most distant (and yet, paradoxically, their closest) and a lyrical bent derived from the average C86 seven-inch, filtered via Saint Etienne when they let go and allow themselves to drift (side two of Tiger Bay, “How We Used To Live”), and you would have something like the six divinely felt minutes of “Hold Me So Tight.”

Sceptics have questioned whether Sweden’s Sally Shapiro actually exists, but there she is, photographed twice, beaming but cautious of eyes, on the cover of her Disco Romance CD; one Johan Agebj√∂rn appears to be the principal musician, songwriter and producer behind her wary smile. It is New Pop, but not quite Annie or Abba, even though it is as happy to pause for extended thought as either. “I Will Be With You” may be the standout track (though for the time being I do not intend to discuss it publicly), but “Hold Me So Tight” is blessed with near equivalent magic.

Shivering its way into illuminated splendour out of an unspecified cold, Shapiro counterpoints the music’s epic majesty with observations on how ordinary days and circumstances can lead to transcendence; she sings plaintively (and hesitatingly but affectingly in the upper range) about meeting her Other in a store (“you were in my way”); they get to talking “about the rain falling on the streets” and end up as “friends meeting twice a week.” In the bridge the chord changes double in speed to mimic her belatedly excited increased pulse rate (“I may be wrong but I may be true/But I think you like me too”) before diving off the springboard into an Esther Williams eternity of a chorus, countering night (“I see a lantern shining bright/I know you’ll be mine in no time in the moonshine” – note the ingenious triple internal rhyme used to bring the chorus to the first of its two rhetorical climaxes) with day (“So be mine in the sunshine”).

The music waxes and wanes as they dance in the club and internal fireworks explode - “I looked into your eyes, you gave me a smile…/And nothing else existed for a while,” Shapiro sings as though she wants nothing else to exist, ever – before the song comes back into focus, not afraid to absent the beats for half a verse at a time, constantly altering its perspective, finally letting the glorious melody take over, dissolve and rekindle in volcanoes of benign borealis. So the small (“we were never meant to go walking along”) is turned into the immortal; the death of New Pop is deferred yet again, and another great song attracts me to its attention at the time when I needed to find it.