In a world of impersonal downloaded music, Cherie Pyne's new album is a breath of fresh air, both for its music and its packaging.
Pyne's debut album, Little Springboard, was an ear-pleasing blend of alternative and contemporary rock arrangements Arcade Fire meets Tom Petty, if you are into comparisons.
With her second release, Pyne has changed the name of the group to Slippery Rabbits. The music is 100 per cent alternative and uncompromisingly original. The musicianship is superb and the music is solid plenty of unpredictable arrangements and crunching alt-rock guitars but the stand-out feature is Pyne's voice. It is at once defiant and strong; fragile and vulnerable.
The packaging for the eight-song CD is noteworthy as well (click image for larger view). Each sleeve is clipped from old road maps, hand-folded and sewn, then stamped with the album title ("La Marée Noire", French for The Black Tide). Each one is unique. This tactile, organic approach adds a human touch to what would otherwise be a cold piece of software.
I asked Pyne why she put so much effort into the packaging, when it's so much easier to use plastic jewel cases.
"That was really because of this being a very homemade project," she said. "I had no money, and I looked around at the neighbourhood thinking, how can I make CD cases with no money? There's a Pharmaprix near my house with all kinds of cardboard thrown away every day and I was thinking maybe I could use recycled cardboard. But it was kind of an ugly and awkward material, and I was looking around for something in the same vein and because I really like maps and have several on my walls, I thought of maps. Friends starting donating maps. And then I was originally going to do potato stamps, but my friend Dan told me they would fall apart on me, so he told me how to do lino prints and lent me his tools. Besides environmental sensibilities, I guess I felt like I wanted to make something really personal because it's a personal album. I wanted people to feel that they held something that had my sweat put into it. A lot of my friends helped too, and that felt really good."
On this release, Pyne has changed the band's name, from a self-titled solo project to Slippery Rabbits.
"I changed the name because it kind of removes me a little from being in the spotlight. I find it easier to talk about the music objectively, and to put energy into it as something that's outside of me."
For several years, Pyne worked as tour manager and administrator for Andy Jones, participating in the production of a book, an audiobook as well as tours to Tasmania, Australia and Canada.
"Andy Jones was amazing to work for," Pyne said. "He is one of my favourite people in the world. He is incredibly funny, and also one of the most generous and considerate and giving people I have ever met. Trying to get anything actually done while working for him is very difficult because he is very distracting and funny and always going off on tangents. I think he changed the way I work actually. I have a lot more of a holistic approach now. And maybe I'm spoiled. He fed me a lot while I worked. Lots of pie and raisin squares."
Pyne says the new CD will be available next week at Fred's, or from her directly. It was produced in a limited run of 100 copies, though she intends to produce more in the same hand-made format as necessary. You can contact Pyne by leaving a message at her Slippery Rabbits group on facebook.
Speaking of facebook, here are some autobiographical notes about Cherie Pyne's career (from 1993 to present), extracted verbatim from her facebook profile. Fasten your seat belts, and start reading:
"I made visual art, I danced, I made pretentious interdisciplinary art. I played guitar and made little films. I roller skated in feathers and body glitter. I served cd&g to truckers. I did split jumps in a winged helmet for eco-education. I planted 1500 trees a day for 3 months for a logging company. I played 22 roles in 45 minutes at the Lincoln Centre in New Yawk. I operated a seagull on a stick in a tie-dyed silk jumpsuit in Whitehorse. I played a cracked out whore in a bathtub full of raw vegetables. I sliced baby-sized hams for rich yuppies on cell phones. I put facecloths on the private parts of local celebs. I sold lingerie to drunk latinas. I pumped kegs for wannabe zapatistas. I wrote a sex column, scrubbed ashtrays, and sang many babies to sleep and I also had a slow motion fist fight in a Gold Rush saloon. Oh yeah and I pretended to be married to Blair Harvey. I even baked and sold bread for a while, and for the life of me I can't remember how to do it now."