Carina Round – ‘Deranged To Divine’ [Review]

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Listening to the career retrospective of an artist you’ve only just discovered can be a dangerous proposition. If it sucks, you’re fine; life continues as normal. If it’s great, on the other hand, you may be at serious risk of kicking yourself half to death for your ignorance.

So, if you’ve never heard of Carina Round before now, you’ll need to focus in order to keep your feet rooted to the floor rather than buried in your own backside. Deranged To Divine covers fourteen years of temporal ground, collecting cuts from four solo albums and an EP alongside two previously unreleased recordings (namely Gunshot and an alternate take of Want More), totalling nineteen tracks if you buy it on iTunes. It is also, to say the least, pretty fucking good.

As well as counting herself a member of Puscifer – the electro-industrial brainchild of Tool’s Maynard James Keenan – Carina Round has collected her fair share of legendary fans, among them Lou Reed, Ryan Adams, Billy Corgan, Dave Stewart and Brian Eno. You don’t get to that level of respect without demonstrating exceptional dedication to your art. But if Carina Round’s credentials aren’t enough, the music contained within Deranged To Divine is.

If you finish this album and want more, you’re just being greedy.

As far as points of comparison go, the obvious examples – such as Imogen Heap and Annie Lennox – don’t really come close. Opener You Will Be Loved, a sumptuous alt-pop offering, makes this fact crystal clear. There is no derivation here, no copycatting or plagiarism – just pure originality, freshness created with familiar ingredients and a hell of a lot of secret sauce.

Into My Blood starts off with trebly alt-rock guitar and a confident yet vulnerable vocal, layers slowly accumulating before kicking into a stomping groove. Listen to this one after leaving the house, and you’ll find yourself walking like a badass. Backseat takes another tangential turn, a fragile mix of cute plodding keys and delicate melodies; Girl And The Ghost gets fuzzy, merging dirty industrial vibes and arena-ready anthemicism; and Elegy could fit perfectly into the soundtrack for a spy movie, low-key jazz chords laying down beneath a sultry lead vocal.

Five songs in and Carina Round is already proving herself a musical chameleon, capable of turning her hand to a diverse range of styles and blending them into something pure and vital. Gunshot is driven by a moody downtuned acoustic guitar, contrasting with Round’s vibrato and stellar mic control; Come To You displays a mastery of straight-to-the-point lyricism and unpredictable dynamics; You And Me digs beyond love-song clichés after a worryingly ordinary start, making it a definite live favourite; Downslow pulses seductively while throwing in some brilliant rhythmic twists; and Message To Apollo progresses beyond an off-kilter intro back into slinky cool jazz territory.

At the halfway point, you’d expect at least some signs of repetitive stagnation. Nope. Although it’s important to remember that this is effectively a greatest hits collection, culled from multiple previous releases, Carina Round’s sheer originality is something to behold. She’s clearly not an artist out to make a quick buck on the back of a given trend; respect is obviously more than due.

At the core of Carina Round’s style lies a penchant for minimalism. When her music does get thick and tangled, it’s never that way profligately. Nothing is made more complicated than it needs to be. Everything is made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Arrangement-wise, this makes for winning tunes every time – and Slow Motion Addict, Overcome, the borderline-ska-punky Want More, How I See It (complete with tasty sax), For Everything A Reason, Lacuna, Mother’s Pride, The Secret Of Drowning, and a punchy live version of Let It Fall (an easy highlight located right at the end of the full iTunes-only version) are all prime examples of champion-grade songcraft. The latter half of Deranged To Divine does reflect many of the stylistic approaches and influences that fuel the first, but that does nothing to take away from the sheer quality of the whole. For long-time Carina Round fans (who I now deeply envy for the fact that they got to watch her evolve her art over the past decade and a half-ish), this collection will be a welcome addition to their own collections. For new fans (of which I am one), it’s an energizing wake-up call.

For both old fans and new, it’s a reason to keep your ears peeled for Carina Round’s upcoming solo album. The story abbreviated on Deranged To Divine is not over yet.


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Posted on 28 July 2016

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