In this week's issue, we discuss Valley singer/songwriter Michelle Blades and her delicate balance between riot grrrl verve and orchestral grandeur. We ended up with more material than we could fit in print, so please enjoy another installment of Outtakes, where we sweep up all sorts of good stuff that ended up on the cutting-room floor.
Talking with soon-departing Valley songwriter Michelle Blades, it was easy to structure our conversation chronologically, beginning with her burgeoning days in the coffee house open mic circuit and continuing through her multiple albums and side-projects. However, Blades' musical CV is so extensive, there wasn't quite enough to room to include our discussion of the last bit of work she accomplished before moving away from Phoenix: a collaborative electro-ambient record with Tempe dreamscape crafters Scenery called &.
Highly gauzy and synth-driven, & places Blades' plaintive voice at the center of three unique electronic environments, some loose with reverb and others softly tethered by down-tempo beats. "My Grimey Dreams" has multiple layers of Blades' cooing encircled by static washes and delayed trip-hop high-hats, all of which emulsify into dander by the track's end.
One of the more unexpected sounds comes on "Charity's Toll", which features a Books-like intro of obliquely cut-up vocals. Blades said she improvised lyrics and a vocal melody for the song that ultimately didn't match up properly with the song's rhythm.
Scenery member Troy Harris cut up her vocal track to demonstrate where the phrases should start. Though merely intended as an exercise, Blades insisted on keeping the glitched-out bits. "I told him, 'No! [The vocals] sound great chopped up'," she says.
In the time since we spoke, Blades also firmed up the details of her farewell show this Saturday, August 25, at Grand Avenue art-space Trunk Space. Opening the show will be skillful string maestro and occasional Blades collaborator Tobie Milford. Also playing is another departed Arizona songwriter who happens to be back in town for a spell, Stephen Steinbrink [full disclosure: author Chase Kamp has performed as a member of Steinbrink's band French Quarter]. Thus, attendees get treated to two Valley songwriting staples that won't be seen again for some time.
Michelle Blades is scheduled to perform Saturday, August 25, at Trunk Space.