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Cat Power: Wanderer — stripped-down music

Cat Power: Wanderer — stripped-down music

October 07
17:25 2018

Wanderer comes amid a change in Chan “Cat Power” Marshall’s circumstances. The Florida-based singer has found a new record label after her previous one, US indie stalwart Matador, rejected her first album in six years. She has also become a mother: her son is shown on Wanderer’s cover, pictured next to her guitar, which she holds like a means of support. It is an image of self-sufficiency, the sum of what is needed.

The music has a stripped-down, simplified feel. Self-produced by Marshall, it is dominated by sparse guitar and piano arrangements, an unadorned setting for her warm, languid voice. There is a lot of circular figuration, musical phrases which revolve like slow whirlpools, a gentle centripetal force. The theme of wandering supposedly refers to Marshall’s winding path through music, from her underground rock beginnings in Atlanta and New York in the 1990s to the soul and folk directions of later years. But the album’s real motion is inwards, an act of contemplation.

Standout track “In Your Face” is about a long-resisted moment of self-reckoning towards which the singer is drawn by mellow percussion and an enticing but off-kilter piano melody. “Stay” is a cover of a Rihanna hit that turns it into an introspective piano ballad, a downbeat interpretation that goes against the grain of the chart-friendly music that she claims her previous label Matador wanted her to make.

Doubling effects recur in songs. “Me Voy” has piano and guitar shadowing one another while Marshall takes the role of both someone who is leaving and the person left behind. “Woman” pairs her voice with Wanderer’s only guest Lana Del Rey, a slow-burning rocker that is the closest this intriguingly withdrawn album gets to an anthem.


Wanderer’ is released by Domino

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