Katharine Blake – musical director of chart-topping, classical choral group the Mediaeval Baebes, and lead vocalist of revered alternative act Miranda Sex Garden – releases her first solo album.
MIDNIGHT FLOWER “…a wanton display of twisted Folk and Fairytale Rock”
The story goes something like this…
Three friends, singing Madrigals on the Portobello Road enchanted a passing muso of some clout, who whisked his muses from street to the studios of Mute Records. Initially an experiment in Renaissance revival by three classically trained Madrigal singers, Miranda Sex Garden matured into an avant garde Gothic rock band who recorded five acclaimed studio albums and propped up the likes of Depeche Mode and Hole, on international tours.
But Katharine’s imagination was too fertile to be walled inside Miranda Sex Garden, and within a few years she created the Mediaeval Baebes. The concept was to let untrained voices loose on the music of the Middle Ages – to revitalize and ravage it simultaneously. After gathering her high-spirited girlfriends on Hampstead Heath to sing for the first time, the heaven’s opened and an epic thunderstorm ensued. It seemed like a sign. Six months later, the record company cheque book opened. With finacial backing from Virgin, burning their chastity belts as they went, the Mediaeval Baebes reached the top of the Classical Album charts. 13 years later, they have chalked up six studio albums, one Ivo Novello winning television soundtrack, and a curious John Cale experience.
History has proved Katharine Blake has a dynamic combination of vision and pragmatism. So what does someone as driven and gifted as Katharine do when given free reign? When uninhibited by a record company, or band member? The result is Midnight Flower - a wanton display of twisted folk and fairytale rock; a fascinating hybrid that mixes the reassuringly familiar with the refreshingly new. From Miranda Sex Garden there is the dark combination of romanticism and nihilism. From the Mediaeval Baebes there are the lush, ethereal harmonies that amplify the age-old themes of love and loss. Tracks in the familiar vein include:
Cold Blows The Wind - a duet draped in luxurious tragedy – indulgent, lugubrious and reminiscent of Nick Cave at his finest.
And, Frozen on the Morn – a lullaby so haunting, it might just send baby to sleep forever.
But when Katharine ventures into unfamiliar territory, she does so with complete conviction. This confidence gives the material a surprising authenticity. Unexpected tracks include:
Higher – an erotic plea from a harem, full of Eastern Promise.
And The Hour When Daylight Dies – a southern American, grassroots kind of a thing, with harmonies working hard to please the Lord.
Unlike many solo albums, Midnight Flower is no narcissistic ramble. Katharine uses ensemble players from her previous projects to enhance her sound - her long-term collaboration with Nick Marsh (Flesh for Lulu) being the most significant influence. Here she cleverly tethers an airy-fairy inclination to Nick’s down and dirty disposition - creating a perfect musical equilibrium.
Essentially though, Midnight Flower finally gives Katharine space to display her accomplished compositional skills and to stretch her irrevocable vocal talent. Her truly arresting voice is incredibly versatile but it is her warm, seductive tone that is her trademark - a tone so rich that when she sings you feel as though you are sinking into a thick quilt of melatonin.
Midnight Flower - plucked from Miranda Sex Garden and pinned to the breast of a Mediaeval Baebe, - has been pressed for you, as a keepsake.