There could not be much more of a musical, emotional or just vibe difference than that between drummer Billie Davies
' latest album On Hollywood Boulevard
and her previous project, Hand In Hand In The Hand Of The Moon
However, although they inhabit completely different worlds, both projects had a very long gestation and originate in Davies' reactions to specific events in her life, the latter to her interaction with painter Serge Vandercam, while the former to living in the Historic Hollywood Hillview Apartments
on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
The essence of Hand In Hand
is the mystery of art and the creative process as expressed in "pure" music, and which deeply affected this listener. On Hollywood Boulevard
, on the other hand, is much more concrete, especially since there are many vocals and talk by IRIS P. who, it must be said, has a terrific voice (she is likened a lot to Erykah Badu
). The album has a distinct "pop" feel with Oliver Watkinson
's throbbing electric bass placed front and center, with the versatile Evan Oberla
on synthesizer, electric keyboard and yes, trombone. Davies herself sounds to be in the back and the much simpler drumming (much of the time, at least) of this "groove" music is rather dryly recorded.
The issue of whether a listener who has never been to, much less lived on, Hollywood Boulevard, and armed with only vicarious (and flimsy) knowledge of the place, can relate to the experiences Davies is trying to recreate. It is clear that Hollywood Boulevard is a place of strong contrasts lots of big money next to an evident seediness, beautiful sunshine and climate next to the ugliness of panhandling, drug abuse and pimps with the musicians, and other entertainers, trying to do their thing in the middle of it all.
There is a strong stream-of-consciousness feeling to the proceedings and a lot of echo/reverb which helps to create a sense of a dark, somewhat dangerous underbelly being present despite (or because of?) the natural beauty surrounding it.
In the end, the success of On Hollywood Boulevard
rests on whether it accomplishes what it set out to do, which here is recreate through music the vibe of a particular place as experientially remembered by Davies. In that it most definitely succeeds.
On Hollywood Boulevard 1; The Girl In The Window; Jacaranda; Yellow Sunshine;
Palm Trees; Hollywood Boulevard; On Hollywood Boulevard 2
Billie Davies: Electric Drums; IRIS P: Vocals; Evan Oberla: Electric Piano, Synth,
Trombone; Oliver Watkinson: Electric Bass