I almost decided to not give Sissy a chance. The name didn't do much for me and the album artwork nearly turned me off from the start. I know, you should never judge a book by its cover, but this just looked like it had a high probability of sucking. The biography included with their CD, All Under, name-dropped Portishead as a group with a similar sound, who happens to be one of my favorites of all time. A Portishead rip off? Grrrreat. Now this I had to hear. To my surprise, Sissy was actually quite good. The first thing that struck me was Johanne Williams vocals. Her breathy, somewhat sultry voice reminded me of Lamb's Louise Rhodes and yes, Portishead's Beth Gibbons.
Sissy is the Canadian duo of David Trusz and Johanne Williams. Together they make genre-bending music that covers trip hop, pop and even a little bit of prog rock. The combination of these various elements makes for a truly entertaining listen, especially for fans of Massive Attack and Bjork.
The album begins with the title track, starting with a simple piano line and Williams' delicate vocals. Before long the piano becomes distorted, making way for a minimalist drum beat and subtle crackles, as if Matmos had gone pop. On "Start Again", I was almost reminded of The Cardiagans, if the Swedish popsters had decided to explore electronic music a bit further. Williams' vocals take on a stricking similarity to Nina Persson for a few moments, which is a plus in my book.
"Imagination" is one of the standout tracks on the album, pushing away from electronica a bit and more towards Radiohead prog a la Amnesiac. Propelled by the steady strumming of an acoustic guitar and handclaps, Williams' vocals are slightly distorted at times, soaring to spine-tingling heights towards the middle of the song before being electronically manipulated back to the ground. It is a relatively simple song, yet the subtle sonic textures and brilliant vocal performance show that Sissy really have something. For fans of the more chilled out pop from artists such as Morcheeba or Mono, "So Long" is irresistible. The tribal beats and the infectious hook of the chorus will definitely satisfy your hunger for the days when electronica and pop lived in harmony. Want the dark, cinematic moodiness of Portishead? Skip ahead to "Nothing" and you'll be quite a happy camper.
As a music fan that embraced the trip hop movement during the '90s, still waiting for that next Portishead album, Sissy's All Under was a very pleasant surprise. Song-based electronic music is still alive and well... in Canada.