Melanie De Biasio - Lilies (Play It Again Sam)

Quietly captivating new LP by classically trained Belgian chanteuse

Released Oct 6th, 2017 via Play It Again Sam / By Norman Miller
Melanie De Biasio - Lilies (Play It Again Sam) Fans of all things Belgian will know that the city of Charleroi has plenty to recommend it, including an art museum with a fine Magritte collection plus an Art Deco town hall whose belfry carillon chimes Belgian folk songs. Add Melanie De Biasio, the local gal sometimes referred to as 'the Belgian Billie Holiday'.

A classically trained flautist and graduate of the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles, De Biasio found her furrow in the world of smoky old-school jazz crooning described as 'jazz d'autres univers' – otherworldly. Her first album, A Stomach Is Burning, was followed by an acclaimed 2014 long-player No Deal, which prompted Gilles Peterson to curate an album of jazz remixes. Last year saw the release of a 25-minute opus Blackened Cities, adding a welcome darker tone to her work.

It's something she continues on this collection of nine pared-back moody numbers. 'For me, Lilies has a darkness, but it’s also luminous', says De Biasio. 'I wanted to go back to the simplest materials. I was in this room where there was no light, no night or day at all, no heat. Very uncomfortable. But I felt free'.

While there is something of the quavering fragility of Billie Holiday to De Biasio, closer contemporary comparisons are the moody reverb of Lana Del Rey and lo-fi post punk styling of Carla Dal Forno. The gently sassy swing of the opener Your Freedom Is The End Of Me adds a winsome dash of early Dido too, though the album generally manages to add enough mixture of mood and instrumentation to avoid the trap of ploughing any one furrow too much.

Sitting In The Stairwell, for example, is a spoken spiritual blues telling a bittersweet tragedy involving 'roses on the sidewalk/and blood upon the ground'. There's a darker tone too with All My Worlds, delivered in growling vocal style over off-kilter electronics that move to a sparse piano-infused finale.

De Biasio showcases her jazz roots on Let Me Love You with improvisational piano splashes over softly churning bass, while the gorgeously cool Afro Blue blends creamy bass electronics with tinkling piano and sweet croon.

Occasionally things go so languid they become limp, on tracks like Lilies and Brother, but by and large this is an album that is quietly captivating – no more so than in the heartbeat percussion, trippy jazz noodling and eerie spoken vocal of the closing And My Heart Goes On, which sounds like a cool contemporary channelling of Jim Morrison's late poetic musings.