Lady Lazarus is Melissa Ann Sweat, a creature of California who currently resides in San Jose after a brief love affair with San Francisco in 2008. That's where she used a four-track tape recorder to create her first EP appropriately titled Home Recordings. It's a precious handmade self-release complete with threaded edges, handwritten tracks names, and clever artwork - a true "do-it-yourself" creation.
An artist her whole life, music is a new endeavor for Melissa. It was only shortly before the release of her Home Recordings EP that she began playing instruments and singing under the moniker Lady Lazarus. Home Recordings is a brilliantly simple low-fi collection of seven recordings employing exclusively keyboard and vocals for all songs, except the haunting "Color Opposition Theory" which features accordion. The songs are whittled to a bare minimum, sparing only what is absolutely necessary and leaving the remains stark naked in the fog of San Francisco. In this vulnerability a pure and innocent music emerges: simple chords flowing in easy harmony supporting lilting piano melodies that often double the vocals. Drenched in reverb, Melissa's voice, also bare and exposed, effortlessly and angelically sails over the accompaniment. The result is a sort of neo-minimalist folk that sounds at times like very early Cocorosie or Vashti Bunyan, but with the kick of Cat Power. Void of virtuosity and left with rudimentary construction, the songs of Lady Lazarus are a welcomed reminder that music does not need years of cultivation or complexity to be enjoyable and downright addicting - in fact her music seems to recall an Eastern framework of thought that finds the purest beauty in simplicity detached of extraneous decorations and complexities.
Recently, Pitchfork Magazine favorably reviewed a track called "The Eye in the Eye of the Storm" from Lady Lazarus's forthcoming full length album Mantic (May 2010). My first listen of Mantic (available on Myspace) found that the production is virtually as minimal as Home Recordings. The only additions are the introduction of subtle glockenspiel and harmonica, a bit of development in her vocal and instrumental performance ability, and an occasional extra layer of music. To my pleasure, Melissa successfully resists the temptation to grow her music toward complexity, and instead embraces the minimalism from Home Recordings to pen a sophomore album that remains true to everything good about her first. If it ain't broke don't fix it.
On September 7th, 2009 Melissa was in San Francisco for the kick off of her Indian Summer Tour with Brianna Lea Pruett. That evening she sat at the head of a dining room table of a Mission District home. A small collection of friends sat around as she sang four songs in the echoing kitchen. Her session was fleeting - an afterthought to a long sunny Labor Day, a respite preceding oncoming obligations. Her songs offered exactly what was needed at that moment - ease and entrancement. She was an exceptional fit for a One Night Music session because of her familiarity with simple and minimal performances. Perhaps the best part of Melissa is that her demeanor and character are just as humble, simple, and pure as her music, making her a delightful gift for One Night Music and a musician worthy of adoration.
Recorded in San Francisco, CA on September 07, 2009.