Madame Pamita - Madame Pamita's Wax Works

Owain Paciuszko 07/06/2009

Rating: 4/5

There's something absolutely magical about the crackly sound of this album from Los Angeles-based Madame Pamita. Recorded on 1898 wax cylinder with Pamita contributing vocals and ukelele, with a range of other quirky instruments peeking in and out. Essentially this is a live CD with Pamita and friends having to sing and play everything into a cone that records the sounds onto 100 year old wax cylinders, and each track comes complete with an array of scratches, hisses and pops. Perhaps this may alienate those who like their production crisp and clean, but for me this is heaven!

The songs themselves are equally old-fashioned and for the most part clock in around the two minute mark. Opening with Madame Pamita's Theme Song which sets the template for the record, bright, breezy and old-timey without feeling kitsch. From simple sweet ditties like Love Is Good to witty tunes such as Moving Day with lyrics as retro and humorous as 'I can't get no rent out of you / pack up your things and skidoo'. B-movie musical saw comes in on the eerie and moody Willie the Chimney Sweep, a bluesy track that could've come out of a 19th century Tom Waits.

Penultimate track No Bad News is a perfectly sweet and uplifting tune that is followed by the ludicriously bizarre Malaria, sung by Patrick Weise like a long-lost advert for malaria pills no less.

Clearly this is a unique record with both feet planted firmly in the past and marinated in nostalgia, the songs are played with such conviction and charm that they may just win over a few ears afraid of flaws. I guess the easiest comparison would be the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but that sounded like it was produced by Timbaland compared to this! Here Madame Pamita has managed a difficult balancing act of creating something that sounds immediately old-fashioned - from a production and performance point of view - but manages to retain a contemporary edge.