Lisa Germano | Review | Jon Dale

In the Maybe World feels like an (unintentional, perhaps) sequel or response to Geek the Girl

Album: In the Maybe World

Review date: Aug. 6, 2006
Lisa Germano is best known for her series of 1990s recordings on English independent label 4AD. Starting with Happiness, her records for the label often felt like the re-living of distressing relationships and their fall-out: in the case of Geek the Girl, still Germano's finest hour, the pathology of the stalker ­ and the stalked. The brinkmanship of Geek the Girl suggested terrain not often traversed by song: this was closer to abreaction, and the 12 miniatures collected on the album were fragile and eviscerated. Its candor was disquieting, with Germano refusing the listener any easy escape. In the Maybe World feels like an (unintentional, perhaps sequel or response to Geek the Girl, turning down the intensity while sharing a twilit mood.

Indeed, disquiet is the word that best sums up Germano's body of work. Her songs are structurally simple, taking on the form of lullaby, nursery rhyme or folk tune. All these archetypes resonate because they deal in states of transition: being willed to sleep, the constantly shifting terrain of childhood, or moments that bring mortality into the light ­ or document the coming of death. One suspects Germano works within these parameters because they somehow mirror her lyrical concerns, which here move through familiar territory of broken relationships and personal crisis and over into meditations on death.

Through In the Maybe World, Germano's voice sits somewhere between lisp and whisper as it perpetually threatens its own expiration. Guitars, pianos and muted percussion shade the songs with the smallest, most gestural of arrangements, suggesting music boxes or an eerie musical equivalent of spirit photography. The songs are barely there. Ghosted, uncanny, they suggest both traumatic experience and its uneasy aftermath.