Hannah Marcus, Desert Farmers

Jay Ruttenberg

By Jay Ruttenberg

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A ferocious collaboration between a gifted New York singer-songwriter and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

A bizarrely overlooked singer-songwriter from New York, Hannah Marcus recorded this album in 2004 with members of Montreal's Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It's a ferocious pairing, matching Marcus's literate songs with the swirling atmospheres of the Canadian collective. On epic numbers such as "Hairdresser in Taos," the record recalls Patti Smith's Horses — not for Smith's more commonly plundered vocal gravity and image so much as for her music's expansiveness. Marcus fell into song by birth: Her grandfather, Ernst Levy, was a celebrated pianist and composer in Vienna (he hung with Mahler) and her father played cello in the Radio City Symphony Orchestra. Levy is remembered in part for being forgotten — see the album Ernst Levy: Forgotten Genius; God willing, his granddaughter will not inherit this trait.