Set back from the other buildings on the street, the mysterious old house was shrouded by entangled elm and birch trees, the dust-red brick walls laced up with ivy and browning aging flowers. The path was cracked and shadowed, the windows flaking white confetti and the door creaking yet solid. From the house, sounds would drift – lonesome humming of a lady resident, piano filling out an empty room, crumbling hollow percussion. This sole lady resident, she is Psapp, she is an enigma, she ensnares the unsuspecting, this house is her world.
Psapp sing songs with crooked latinate melodies, she dances a broken flamenco – the clicking and scraping in ‘Hi_’ sounding like stilettos tapping across an old flagstone floor, hips snaking in a slight, sad suggestion. The tone of her voice is so tactile, it is to be brushed over with regal velvets and the most costly of satins. Her voice is expensive and expressive, her words are reassuring yet triste: “come now, come and mourn me, it’s so easy now I’m gone” she sings on ‘New Rubbers_’, arch and downcast.
Her home, the house, reverberates quietly through much of the songs on the album – the percussive loops in ‘This Way’ are made of the sounds of crumbling bricks; seashells and snail shells shattering, delicate underfoot; xylophones crafted from the bones of ancestors, sounded with a hollow hurt. On ‘Needle and Thread’ the pulsing and chattering of sewing machines accompanies her desire to fix a loved one: “There is no needle and thread that will mend you / Don’t you break, I will not let you”. The muted horns and understated, poised strings echo in an unused room of the dilapidated house. It always rains here, that kind of Sunday-evening watershed: cleansing the ground after a week of use, dividing one week from the next, signalling the end of the joy of weekends. To put an ear close to the speaker reveals suggestions of sounds – doors opening and closing, cats prowling garden perimeters, telephones ringing in the house next door, cars passing on the road beyond the trees. The “warm wet smell” she sings of in ‘Upstairs’ is the musty scent of memory and change.
The Only Thing I Ever Wanted is a true album, a coherent trail of interlinked melody and domestic adventures. Like the Books, Psapp meld acoustic sounds into tales of modern life, like Tunng there is a sense of mystery and intrigue imbued into each echo. She of Psapp will ensnare you too, she will lead you to where “it is green, it is damp / by the burning lamp” right into the dark old house which neighbours fear and is the location of their whispered urban fables.
8Rachel Cawley's Score