Mary Timony: Witchy Woman
Just about the only extravagance Mary Timony allowed herself on stage a week ago Thursday downstairs at the Middle East was the faint sparkle of glitter she wore around her eyes. Well, that and the battery of effects pedals she employed for a guitar improv that climaxed in a symphony of feedback and space-rock noise during “The Golden Fruit,” one of nearly a dozen new songs she performed from her new solo album, Mountains (Matador). For some, the glitter may have been a reminder of the fairy-dusted feel of 1998’s The Magic City (Matador), the last disc Timony released with her band-on-hiatus Helium. Overall, though, her stripped-down solo set with Victory at Sea drummer Christina Files sounded like a statement of bold new purpose and direction.
After opening with the Helium number “I Am a Witch,” Timony moved quickly into new material. Aided and abetted by Files’s intuitive drum fills and syncopated bursts, she pushed the stark and cathartic “Poison Moon” toward a heated boil; at one point — cracking a tiny smile to herself — she even mumbled a few lines from the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” before abandoning the idea. It was that kind of fetchingly unkempt night: Timony, on her own but among friends, experimenting; taking a bit too much time tuning her guitar but shrugging off the inconvenience; dashing back and forth to grab her viola or hop behind a Yamaha keyboard like a kid eager to show her classmates what she brought to show-and-tell.
What Timony brought was a flurry of ideas: indie rock’s template of fractured rhythms and rueful, minor-key meditations (“The Bell”); a dose of baroque surrealism (“Tiger Rising”); a batch of chilly, prog-rock nursery rhymes (“The Fox and Hound”) whose subjects — watery graves, worlds of doom — were more Edward Gorey than Dr. Seuss. In a live setting, the ambition and risk at the heart of her tightrope-walking approach — not to mention the notion of her having left behind the established safety net of a well-regarded band — was made explicit, especially at the show’s somewhat tentative outset. But by the time Timony was kneeling over her effects boxes, taming the electric oceans of feedback that rolled in white-noise waves over the crowd, the glitter rimming her eyes was the last thing holding anyone’s attention.
From the Boston Phoenix, reprinted w/o permission
— Jonathan Perry, May 18 – 25, 2000