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coverpic flag US - Alaska - Full Moon 53 - 02/08/01

Rory Merritt Stitt
The Narcissist
Holy Fool Productions

Rory Merritt Stitt grew up in Juneau, Alaska, in a musical family. Early on he picked up (well, not literally) the piano, and was classically trained on that instrument. Like the rest of us, he expanded his musical horizons in his teens, and started singing, and later writing his own songs. Classical instrumental training isn't always the best starting point for a pop/rock career, as the two musical worlds don't automatically meld too well.

But Rory lands safely with this debut CD, which is an interesting and multi-faceted collection of songs. His voice is pleasant and the melodies are surprisingly catchy and beautiful, even if arrangement-wise are quite quirky at times. The piano of course has a central place here, and it is refreshing to hear this kind of unrestrained piano playing in a pop setting. Almost everything else is also played by Rory himself, meaning mostly additional synths, keyboard, samplers and drum-machines. I think he also utilizes some unorthodox percussive possibilities in the piano itself on some occasions, adding a more organic touch to the otherwise somewhat clinical, synthetic rhythmic sounds.

Even if you normally can't cope with drum-machines, this shouldn't stop you from checking out this CD. Here are beautiful melodies that really flow, even if they twist and turn away from the rules. Many of them have a certain spooky, eerie quality, but of the pleasant kind. Not so very unlike the soundtrack to one of the Monkey Island PC games, although that is a rather unfair comparison ... One of the elements of this spookiness is the re-occuring chromatic downward melodic movement, which perhaps is a little overused. In a similar way, whole tone upward movements are used on several occasions, maybe stemming from a more formal, theoretical approach to the songwriting, but this is always combined with traditional pop aestethics. To a certain degree these (and other) elements may be described as avant-garde, but in volume and intensity they are well within the limits of what a pop song easily can hold.

Compared to say, John Cale, Rory's music is lighter, warmer, a little "squarer", more playful, but not less eccentric in its nature. I'm not saying that Cale is the perfect comparison, The Narcissist is too varied for me to pin down really usable references. Rory's listed influences include Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Annie Lennox and Janis Joplin, but he doesn't sound very much like any of them. And Holy Fool Productions' attempt to describe Rory's music ("imagine pouring a shot of Tori Amos, Annie Lennox, David Bowie and Rachmaninoff into the shaker and mixing vigorously") is not very helpful either. I don't think our average reader gets any wiser, no matter how hard you shake that thing. Anyway, this is a memorable debut CD.

(Rory has recently moved to Portland, Oregon, but we still chose to list him under Alaska. Visit Rory's home on the web for more information, although this site is currently under construction.)

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You may also want to check out our Rory Merritt Stitt article/review: Harlequin.

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