Hannah Marcus follows a path seldom traveled since the earliest days of 20th Century punk, NYC –style. On Desert Farmers, she recalls the incantatory power of Patti Smith circa Horses and the mystery and carefully crafted foreboding of Nick Cave’s quieter moments or John Cale’s chillingly austere productions for Nico. Her music is as artful as it is iconoclastic and leaves plenty of room for poetry. Hannah is forward-thinking and fearless, emulating the spirit if not exactly the sound of her progenitors, and on her latest release she’s aided and abetted on much of it by the equally visionary members of Montreal band Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Together they’ve created an album that’s transfixing and beautiful, startling and disturbing.
The enigmatic cult faves GYBE were already fans of Hannah when they invited her two years ago to open shows for them in Amsterdam and in Germany, where Hannah has long had a following. Touring in tandem led to their recording together; Desert Farmers was recorded and mixed in Montreal at Godspeed’s home base, the Hotel2Tango. Key players included GYBE guitarist Efrim Manuck and bassist Thierry Amar, as well as violinist Jessica Moss of the GYBE offshoot, A Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra.
On its own, Godspeed You! Black Emperor creates eerie, wordless soundscapes; combined with Hannah’s narratives and vocals, the tracks become all the more compelling. It’s haunting, riveting stuff, like a book that might be scaring the hell out of you but that you still can’t put down. There’s definitely a unique literary bent to Hannah’s work; lyrics for two of the tracks were adapted from the writing of another Hannah admirer, and now frequent collaborator, author Rick Moody (The Ice Storm, Purple America).
Reviewsfor anyone who's ever wondered what the slowly gathering minimalist tempests of Godspeed You Black Emperor would sound like attached to vocals and lyrics “ there must be a handful of us “ Hannah Marcus has enlisted Godspeed's guitarist and bassist to back her songs on Desert Farmers. Her surreal travelogues are full of sudden transformations and unsettling close-ups. They inspire her accompanists to toy with jazz and soul vamps, to pick acoustic instruments in rustic quietude, to exult in unsullied grandeur and then to let loose their beloved distortion. - The New York Times