There was an aloofness about Christa Paffgen, an untouchable quality that made you want all the more to touch. She had the ability, whilst appearing sultry, sensual and sexually alluring, to put distance between herself and her audience. It was a fey quality. It was as though she was the reincarnated spirit, taken contemporary shape, of some ancient Elven princess, a Galadriel perhaps or a chill ice queen who resided in corporeal form to perform her songs, act her roles with that detached manner she exuded. The image was imperial, impervious of concerns or thoughts of what others might think; majestic and cool as in the way an iceberg floating in the ocean is cool, remote and rather otherworldly. .It was that fey quality that would hound her life turning a once beautiful femme-fatale into a haunted, decaying woman. Such is the effects of heroin addiction. The world knew Christa better as Nico.
Nico was German. Born three years after the National Socialist Party came to power. It must have been a harrowing process growing up in a country run by madmen. Far better the world we live in now ran by clowns. At least the corporations who select out leaders make some half decent adverts The experience must have shaped her somehow. That austerity flouting the natural human desire for individuality, warping it into a beehive of drone simplicity.Perhaps this upbringing was what nurtured her making her surround herself with a shield to ward off others?
When we think of Nico we first recall The Velvet Underground (surely the best name for a group ever?) with the wonderful debut album with its iconic Andy Warhol cover - The Velvet Underground and Nico. She arrived long before that recording was released in 1966. Her first appearance was in the Fellini film 'La Dolce Vita but it is neither her brief time with the Velvet's or her acting career, highly regarded as it was, that I want to speak of here. It is with regard to her solo album, released in 1969 'The Marble Index' that I want to praise.
'The Marble Index' that I want to praise. 'The Marble Index' that I want to praise. 'The Marble Index' that I want ...
Melodic but twisted. Like a vaudeville of architectural Sonics, whispers and muted shunts of sound. That asthmatic harmonium, that vaulted voice, sepulchral and Teutonic. The lyrics that flow like prose poetry .over a breathless aural structure that is as simple as it is stark. John Cale's production adds a haunted quality but it is her, that frail angel, that fallen Madonna with the chiseled cheekbones whose voice and whose words add the fatal charm. It is one of those albums, plain and simple as a pikestaff yet deep as a mirror, that you struggle with at first but which grows upon you and stays with you forever.
Believe in the beautiful, the extraordinary hushed tones that somehow manage to rattle your psyche and you will revisit this languid pool of sound again and again.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers then drizzles the beans with a touch of HP