[sic] Magazine

Melody Klyman – Bending The Knotted Oak

What does it take to get ahead in show business: knowing the right people, talent, good looks, or just plain luck? Yes, and no to all of these. In the music industry however, it all seems to boil down to four little words:


If I had a) met Melody at a showcase or some such function, or b) seen her photograph on a bio I might not have paid her too much (musical) attention, wrongly assuming that she was all about the show business/entertainment thing. I’m an indie snob and besides, serious musicians aren’t supposed to be beautiful. Yet this girl is, and is totally, 100%, deadly serious as well. I don’t get the impression Melody Klyman really cares about hits or sales. She cares about her art. And it shows.

Thankfully, I didn’t get introduced to Melody at a music business function. We found each other through labelmates Repeater, (the darkwave/post punk outfit from Long Beach that had me all in a lather over their Iron Flowers debut). Klyman is neither darkwave nor post-punk (although she covers Killing Joke but we’ll come back to that). She does nevertheless manage to subtly infuse her work with weightier material. Goth though, she isn’t.

Another quirky, female singer-songwriter then? Well, if people need to over-simplify matters, then yes, but by extension I suppose The Beatles were just another merseybeat band and Hendrix just another guitarist. I’ll admit the mad-as-a-balloon, female artist scene, already burgeoning in the days of Tori Amos, has now exploded to the brink of ennui. None of this is Klyman’s fault. Indeed, she is breathing a good deal of new life and hope into a genre by virtue of the fact she doesn’t merit pigeonholing.

First there’s the voice – rich and powerful one moment, light and vulnerable the next. She could certainly pull off Urban or Dance with pipes like these. And she’s natural too, that’s the key factor. With no ‘make-up’ (none of that ghastly, Enya-like, over-treatment) the focus is on the lyrical content – intelligent, introspective. Her feminine subjects deal equally with identity and renewal.

Bending The Knotted Oak is an album loaded with ‘goodbye’ songs, only not in the way we might expect. Instead of generic relationship break-ups, Melody has penned ten farewells to her own previous life, career and even self-image. As a musician and singer, Klyman has already been active in the highest levels of the mainstream music industry. I think she simply grew tired of all the superficial attention, the posturing and the branding that goes along with that. I’m guessing she was told once too often to ‘just stand there and look pretty’ and had one of those ‘this isn’t me’ epiphanies. Either way, a new artist was born, or perhaps the real one born afresh.

As to the material, I guess Kate Bush really broke the mould with this kind of thing. Nobody since has sounded like Bush. Mel Klyman has her own voice but she occasionally composes in a similar vein to Kate. Witness ‘Thrillseeker’ which has the same jaunty haughtiness as something like ‘Sat In Your Lap’. Yet, this album is too varied to be nailed down so easily.

Klyman is surpassing many of her peers. There are far stronger melodies here than, say, St Vincent, more scope and ambition than Little Boots and a fuller band sound than any of the electronica artists. Closer contemporaries might include Fever Ray, Florence and the Machine, or even Bat For Lashes. I just feel, personally, than none of those other mentioned artists quite piqued my attention as much as Melody Klyman. Tracks like ‘Calico’, ‘Chrysalis’ and the simply stunning ‘Superhuman’ betray a sure-footed, musical know-how. And then, she goes and covers Killing Joke’s ‘Requiem’. Somehow Klyman’s version is both glitch-laden modern, yet strangely faithful to the original.

‘How come you covered ‘Requiem’ Mel?’
‘My voice wasn’t up to ‘Wardance’

That’s my kind of humour, but I guess by now I ought really to stop being surprised. Simply, Melody is my kind of artist. A complex, three dimensional person who really defies labelling. Yes, she has a beautiful, ‘pure as snow’ voice, but get past it. See her for her mystery, intelligence and down-to-earth fun. And while the album is certainly a near-flawless showpiece for an emerging talent, I will always see it more as a document to a very important time in an artists life – a moment of bravery, new beginnings and liberation.