Maps of Tacit, Shannon Wright’s follow-up to her generally well received Flight Safety, is a collection of elliptical, minimalist songs that are linked more by a mood than anything close to a theme. And here the mood is one of unremitting melancholy. Wright’s voice at once echoes the fragility of Chan Marshall’s (a.k.a. Cat Power) yet without being as lyrically focused on the pains of needing and being needed. What exactly it’s lyrically focused on though is a bit of a mystery.
To take an example, on the track “Within the Quilt of Demand,” Wright earnestly sings: “What could hinder this haste / Calm strewn the isle in this tattered grain / In all this muzzled distaste…” in a way that begs for understanding, except that I have no idea what the heck she’s going on about. Here, and throughout the rest of this collection, instrumentation is always secondary to voice, focusing the listener on what is being sung about. In the package itself the lyrics are plainly printed out, saying “read me, comprehend me.” This woman is obviously serious about saying something, I just can’t make out what it is.
If Shannon Wright is merely creating evocative images, fine then. But here, when the images seem like they come out of something akin to automatic writing I loose interest pretty quickly. If at that point there is something else going on, say a quality voice or stunning instrumentation, then I will stick around and take the silly lyrics as merely an excuse for good music making. But that’s not really on here. Shannon Wright doesn’t really have a great voice, mostly because she lacks (or has never developed) range. And while the playing on this collection is competent, there aren’t exactly any “Wow” moments. And lastly, the fact that Steve Albini shows up here to engineer and mix four of the 12 tracks should not be taken as an indication that there are moments when any of these songs really rock out, let alone move away from stone faced seriousness.