Night Wings, Valerie Rose Sterrett, Fossil Arms 

Local CD Reviews: Night Wings, Monsteria, Only Ever Have Nightmares When I'm Ill

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Night Wings, Night Wings
Despite its brevity, the roughly 15-minute debut solo release from violinist/singer-songwriter Alyssa Pyper, aka Night Wings, is proof of the songwriting depth and sonic variety this versatile artist is capable of. In only three songs, Pyper takes the listener through a range of complicated emotions while also demonstrating the myriad sounds that can be produced by a violin and a loop pedal. "Crooked Path" begins the story of an apparent breakup, the catastrophic nature of which Pyper conveys in the simple repeated line "I can't take it, I can't take no more," over syncopated pizzicato and bowing that throbs with feeling. One unfortunate aspect of Night Wings is that Pyper's vocals are sometimes buried in the instrumentation, and her affected singing style can make the lyrics difficult to discern. But there's a good balance between violin and voice on concluding track "Fragments"; as Pyper sings about leaving her old life and starting again, the strings are delicate enough that they don't detract from such poignant lyrics as "But there is just one little fact/ My life without you's rather flat." Self-released, Sept. 14,

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Valerie Rose Sterrett, Monsteria
With its combination of campy, B-movie spookiness and lacy, gothic beauty, the latest album by singer-songwriter Valerie Rose Sterrett features an interesting interplay between light and dark, melancholy and optimism. The piano-driven Monsteria chills like a lover's last words and, with its strong horror theme (complete with sounds of creaky doors, screams and more), turns tales of heartbreak into monster-filled nightmares. Sterrett's delicate, Tori Amos-esque voice is lovely throughout the album, but it's particularly piercing and emotive on the moody, '80s-pop-influenced "Yesterday's Ghost," where she cleverly uses the idea of being haunted by a ghost to describe the lingering memory of a former significant other. The lyrics on "Cobweb" depict love at its most destructive and lethal with the lyrics "You inject poison into my head." On album highlight "Lullaby to the Grave," Sterrett's sugary, overly whispery, slightly off-kilter vocals are fittingly accompanied by creepy-carnival organ, piano and wobbly theremin, giving the song an effectively off-putting combination of dreaminess and terror. Swoody Records, Oct. 31,

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Fossil Arms, Only Ever Have Nightmares When I'm Ill
With its ear-grating abrasiveness and black-as-ink sonic texture, the latest album from duo Fossil Arms (Chaz Costello and Melody Maglione) is a well-crafted slice of monochrome, morose synth-punk, even if it's not always groundbreaking. The album's familiar combination of bass-y male vocals, crushing synths and snappy drums evokes classic post-punk groups like Joy Division as well as more modern offshoots such as She Wants Revenge. Dance-worthy album highlight and opening track "Time for Words" features a driving beat and jagged layers of computerized fuzz, relentless bass and indeterminate atmosphere, and it showcases Fossil Arms' ability to successfully combine soft- and hard-edged sounds. "Dirty Dreamer" begins on a promising note with zippy, laser-like synths, but the main guitar part sounds a little too similar to the hook in Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself." But it's only a momentary stumble; the richly and intricately arranged tones on "Moonrise" give the track a sleek, icy beauty that contrasts with its geometric backbone. Self-released, Oct. 24,

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