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[eh?25]Papier Mache

sold out

Ember Schrag - Jephthah's Daughter
CD-R (Lincoln, NE)

-la maria
-jephthah's daughter
-i ain't a prophet
-april night

Ember Schrag - Guitar & Voice
Recorded by Jake Bellows in Omaha in September, 2009
Mastered by Doug Van Sloun

(Babysue) It takes balls these days to release music that is stark naked. But if you have the talent...it's apparently no big deal. Ember Schrag presents four songs on this EP...and the only sounds you will hear are a single acoustic guitar and a single vocal. And yet...the songs hold up as well or better than compositions recorded by other artists that utilize dozens or even hundreds of overdubs. The reason? There is pure and real talent here...so there's no need to try and cover up for a lack of substance. Schrag has a sound that is something like a cross between early Suzanne Vega and Linda Draper (more the latter than the former). The songs are poignant and delivered simply...and her voice is unique and lovely. Can't say enough good things about where this young lady is coming from. This EP features "La Maria," "Jephtha's Daughter," "I Ain't A Prophet," and "April Night." Top pick. - dONW7

(Whisperin and Hollerin) With just voice and acoustic guitar, this EP by Nebraska's Ember Schrag contains four sparse, yet lyrically complex tales of "desert abandonment, child sacrifice and strange guardians". With Influence which include Leonard Cohen and Canadian poet-essayist Anne Carson, her words are steeped in biblical metaphors of judgement, betrayal and rash promises. "Now once a year in the hills the women go to mourn The beautiful maiden of Jephthah who will dance with them no more" she sings on the title track which tells of the Israeli custom deriving from the Old Testament tale of how Jephthah sacrificed his only daughter to honour a vow to God in return for victory against the Ammonites. This is not your standard subject matter but, then again, these are no standard folk songs. The significance of each are as intriguing as they are elusive but she has the knack of drawing in the listener with surreal yet arresting opening lines. The first song , La Maria, begins with: "I had a peppermint stuck in my throat, I had an idea of love as something that people owe" while I Ain't A Prophet has the couplet "I've been stung by a jellyfish, I may or may not get to the bottom of this". You know from such words that it is fruitless to search for straight narratives so it is better to let the mystery be and savour her voice that has a similar, slightly forlorn, quality as singers like Nevada City's Alela Diane and Mariee Sioux. On the short closest song, April Night, she sings of the "desolate Midwest" and these songs evoke a desert wilderness that is forbidding and bleak but also possessed of a strange poetry. 8/10 - Martin Raybould

(Dead Angel) Her previous album featured Schrag fronting a full band; this time around it's just her and a guitar. With a playing style reminiscent of Edith Frost and a voice recalling both 60s hippie icon Melanie and the always-fabulous Kristin Hersh, the stripped-down sound of this four-track EP is every bit as arresting in its own way as the previous album. These are subtle, subdued acoustic guitar ballads, devoid of flash but soaked in character and a peretually unsettling sense of mystery. They're also short, ranging from two to four minutes in length, and as such, they get the point across without needless meandering. Schrag proves that it's hard to go wrong with just a guitar, good songs, and a distinctive voice. It's a bit strange to hear an album like this, with its stark country folk sound, on this particular label, but that just demonstrates the label's smarts at not being boxed-in by its identity as a prime source of weird improv sound combos. Schrag is a welcome addition to the label's roster. She's also currently touring the US, so you can go check her out yourself if you are so inclined (and you should).- RKF

(Cyclic Defrost) Jephthah is an Old Testament character who, in a fit of passionate vow making, promised to sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house when he returned from defeating his enemies. Jephthah’s daughter was the unfortunate girl who happened to greet him on his return. It’s the kind of story on which the rich tradition of American folk has been built. Ember Schrag consciously draws on that heritage. Indeed, she places herself right in the middle of that tradition in both content and style. Schrag presents her work in about as stripped back and raw a state as is possible – a single, finger-picked acoustic guitar and her lone voice, only a slight reverb trail on her vocals to serve as ‘production’. Unusual for folk artists in our current epoch, however, Schrag sounds neither contrived, affected nor lo-fi. Instead, simple clarity turns out to be a point of distinction, which serves the music very well. ‘I Ain’t A Prophet’ wouldn’t sound out of place as a classic Nick Cave track with its brooding, meandering melody and plot line. Mostly, however, Schrag works with the age-old American folk/roots tradition of blurring Old Testament Middle East with a mythologised American Mid-West, best exemplified in ‘April Night’. Here, negotiating snakes and rattles goes hand in hand with children, cuckolds and cherry pies in mystical twists that run a lineage right through classic Dylan. It doesn’t go for long, not quite clocking up 12 minutes, but, for me, has served as an excellent introduction, birthing a desire to track down work from the long string of cassette, CD-R and album proper releases that Schrag has issued so far. - Adrian Elmer

(Luna Kafé) Even if it was released some moonths ago, let's check Miss Schrag's latest offering. I was positively taken by her debut album, A Cruel, Cruel Woman. Now let's see what this new EP offers. This time it's only Ember, her voice and the acoustic guitar. All naked. Four songs exposing the artist Ember Schrag with no possible place to hide. And she comes away with it head held high. Firstly because she's got a warm and delightful voice, feeling like a mild breeze against your chin. Secondly she comes up with interesting songs, with intriguing lyrics - this time inspired/influenced by Canadian poet/essayist/translator Anne Carson, with references to the Old Testament (the 'surreal distortions of obscure, disturbing moments', according to the press sheet), and distant childhood memories. As a result, beautiful songs come out. Especially the EP's highlight, "A Ain't A Prophet". Ember Schrag recorded and released 11 cassettes and CD-Rs prior to her debut. Check out her songs. She deserves a bigger audience. - Håvard Oppøyen

(Aiding and Abetting) Four songs given the full minimalist folk treatment. Schrag's voice is a wonderful instrument, and she gives each song her all. Pretty songs that have steel in their bones. Well done. - Jon Worley

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