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Margot Smith


Country of origin:

Australia

Type of music generally:

Beautiful and fierce evocative/eclectic ethereal alternative pop/rock

Status:

Sadly, Margot Smith died in April 2011. Final album, inhumaninane (2011)

See also:

Margot Smith's site

Margot Smith's Facebook tribute and memorial page

Comparisons:

Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Sara Craig, Sandra Lockwood, Kerri Simpson. (Neile)

Lush, This Mortal Coil, Tori Amos. (ahoran@ozemail.com.au)

Peter Gabriel. (awphili@hacktic.nl)

The Church with female vocals. (afries@zip.com.au)

Covers/own material:

Own and co-written

General comments:

Margot Smith has an emotive voice and writes the songs to match—atmospheric, lyric, allusive. Her voice isn't conventionally pretty but it's strong and she knows how to use it effectively. Her work seems to be getting more and more powerful as she goes along. Her work is in the Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Sara Craig, Sandra Lockwood, Kerri Simpson vein of strong creative songwriting that is emotive enough to push the limits but for me never ceases to be effective. (Neile)

Definitely someone to watch for. (jjhanson@att.net)

Margot is a real find, and deserves worldwide exposure. (trow@interbridge.com)

I wonder why Margot doesn't have success worldwide. (marcel@kimwilde.com)

Recommended first album:

Any

Recordings:


Sleeping With The Lion

Release info:

1993—EMI Australia—8270062

Availability:

Australia

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Margot Smith—vocals, keyboards

Guest artists:

Michael Wade—guitars, keyboards, programming
Steve Kilbey—guitars, bass, keyboards, programming, backing vocals
Eddie Rayner—keyboards, programming
Michael Barker—drums, percussion
David Rule—bass
Ben Kross—guitars
Chris Bekker—bass, fretless bass
Michael den Elzen—fretless guitar
Mark Dawson—drums
Paul Major—keyboards programming
Chris Sweeney—drums
Sunil de Silva—percussion
Boris Goudenof—trumpet
Peter Koppes—guitar
Justin Brady—harmonica

Produced by:

Eddie Raynor, Steve Kilbey, Charles Fisher

Comments:

Beauty captured forever, a shining light in the darkness, a truly wonderful record that has changed my life for the better. That doesn't happen every day! A voice so perfect, songs so beautiful, all painted in lush colours by Eddie Rayner and Steve Kilbey. Number 1 of the year for me by a long way. Once I heard it there was never any question.
     The album opens with the debut single, "Fall Down"—best described as an atmospheric pop song, it contains the harmonica seemingly obligatory on at least one track on every Australian album; this song soars, glides, and lands in your head in insidious fashion, throwing out conventional song structure and in the process of not repeating the chorus ad nauseum at the end, throwing out its chances of chart success. Track two, "How Do You Sleep", is the most atypical song on the album; very guitar-based, quite unlike anything else on the album, and obviously produced with an eye on commercial radio. That doesn't make the song any less of a song, of course; it just could have done with a little more subtlety in the production department. Mind you, this song will probably sound fresh to those who haven't heard Australian artists Wendy Matthews or Deborah Conway, as that is what it seems to be trying to sound like.
     Pleasant surprise time. Track 3 is "Just", included as a b-side on the "Fall Down" single but listed there as not being on the album. Thankfully it is. This piano-and-keyboards lament is heartbreaking, intoxicating, and unforgettable. It is here that the tone for the album is truly set. What EMI have done is sequence the tracks on the album roughly in descending order of up-ness, to an extent. The commercial considerations here are obvious, but one thing I'll be asking Margot is if the songs are presented the way she wanted them to. At any rate, it's all heaven from here on. "Pool Of Blood", backwards tapeloops and all, contains some biting lyrics ("And yes you want to hold me / But you don't want to wear the smell of me / Even though you'd like to know me intimately..."), and the album's only Kate Bush-like backing vocals.
     Then there's "Arms Of Earth". Wow. There's one track on every album that makes you go "wow". There's actually about 6 here that do that, and this is one of them. Choral tape loops, glistening ethereal guitar, shimmering chord changes, and a vocal to die for. The song leaps mid-way into anger, catharsis and a guitar solo battling Margot's voice. Wonderful.
     The above tracks having all been produced by Eddie Raynor, we then some to "Adored" the first Kilbey-produced track. This is also the new single, and it's sublime; it's an "up" song very much in the Church mould. This is followed by "Water"—this track, produced by Charles Fisher (one of EMI's in-house producers) was apparently recorded just after Margot signed her deal, and is a wonderful piece of music that only pales on the production side because the rest of the album sounds so startlingly good. Too many factory preset keyboard sounds here, alas. As if to make up for this, Steve Kilbey jumps back into the producer's chair for "The Torch Song", which is exactly that. This track would not be out of place on a This Mortal Coil album. And the following track, "Life Time", has all the glittering acoustic guitar and phased fretless bass sounds we know and love from our Lush albums, but hang on a second—Lush have never written anything as sublime as this, have never sung as enticingly as this....
     "Bellyman" is truly amazing. Samples of all manner of things such as music boxes and street vendors come and go behind ominous low strings, while the rhythm of the song is metered out by the ticking of a clock that auto-pans from left to right relentlessly. The song is about the fear of darkness. The vocal and atmosphere is perfect. "Dream", the final Kilbey-produced track, is another in the This Mortal Coil vein, but once again has more the tone of a wistful lament than the cold atmospherics that pervaded the last This Mortal Coil album. The words of the songs on this album matter to the person who is singing them, that much is obvious. "Don't let them take you from your dreams...".
     Finally, "Child" (included on the "Adored" single as well) wraps proceedings with a handy thunderstorm (in Dolby Surround, no less!) and a slightly Tori Amos-ish song it is—or would be if backed by piano. Instrument of choice here is acoustic guitar.
     In Sleeping With The Lion we have the birth of a major talent. All I know is, this is the finest album I've heard since Little Earthquakes, and the first since then to move me, affect me, and intrigue me in quite the same way. It's an album full of songs that don't wear thin after repeated listens, but rather grow and reveal more of themselves to you over time. (ahoran@ozemail.com.au)

After reading the opinions of other people who had heard the album, I was expecting the worst on the first 2 songs. But I was pleasantly surprised by "Fall Down." It may be a bit over-produced, but I like it. However, "How Do You Sleep" is a bit too poppy for my taste. As everyone said, things do get much better after these first 2. My favorites right now are "Pool of Blood," "Arms of Earth," and "Bellyman." And, even though I hate making these kind of comparisons, "Water" is very Kate Bush-esque. Margot even sounds like Kate when she sings "Aphrodite dies" in that song.
     Over all, the CD is not perfect, but it shows a great deal of potential. Margot has a strong voice which can be sweet at times and very powerful at others. I think that she would benefit immensely if she avoided over-production. "Adored," for example, is just as poppy as "How Do You Sleep," but it doesn't suffer from the bombast of "How Do You Sleep." Also, she should write more songs without co-writers. The only song she wrote totally on her own ("Bellyman") is arguably the best song on the album. A whole CD of "Bellyman" type songs would be something I would buy in a heart beat. Regardless of my complaints, Sleeping with the Lion is a very impressive debut, and I look forward to hearing Margot progress as an artist. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

I love the impossibly lush soundscapes on tracks like "Just" and "Adored," but what really captured my heart is the graceful acoustic ballad, "Child," which closes Sleeping With The Lion. (trow@interbridge.com)

i like margot's wordsmithing and the album is very pleasant to listen to, but about half the songs don't stand out musically. however, the ones that do are excellent. my favorite tracks are "adored," "life time," "bellyman" and "child." i'd say that sleeping with the lion is a worthy but not necessary addition to an ectophile's collection. i enjoy it very much. (woj@smoe.org)

Sleeping with the Lion is a truly brilliant album, with lyrics of a metaphysical quality that just ring true to me. Her voice is smooth and silky, and flows naturally with the beautiful musical compositions. Sometimes she uses her voice as an instrument, and produces really interesting sounds. They remind me a bit of the things Peter Gabriel does in songs like "A Different Drum" from Passion. There are a few instrumental bits that are just wonderful, like the ending of "Dream". I just can't stop listening to this album. (awphili@hacktic.nl)

It is a wonderful album. (c.boek@ee.mu.OZ.AU)

I love this album; however, I usually skip the first two songs ("Fall Down" and "How Do You Sleep") when I play it—they're just too pop-sounding for me. The rest of the album—wow. It continues to grow on me after five years of frequent plays. Emotional and evocative. Great stuff. I agree with people that "Bellyman" and "Child" are especially wonderful songs (the simplicity of "Child"'s arrangement is particularly nice at the end of this sonically complex album. I also love the power of "Pool of Blood" and, well, all the rest of the songs that I haven't yet mentioned by name. (Neile)

In an amazing feat of luck I picked up Sleeping With The Lion, and am of course loving it. Typically I had left it sitting in the shop for a while until I realised that Steve Kilbey cowrote some tracks (unsurprisingly, they are among my favourites). (afinney@ozonline.com.au)

My favourite track from Sleeping with the Lion is "Bellyman", but I liked every track in fact.... marcel@kimwilde.com)

My favorite track off Sleeping with the Lion is "Bellyman" as well. (bvmi@odin.cc.pdx.edu)


taste

Release info:

1998—Immersion—IMM002CD

Availability:

Australia, and mail order from Phantom Records, P.O. Box A566, Sydney South 1235, Australia, email phantom@real.net.au

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Margot Smith—vocals

Guest artists:

Steve Kilbey—guitars, bass and piano
Tim Powles—drums, bass
Michael Wade—guitars, bass
Peter Koppes—guitars, drums
David Rule—bass guitars
Ben Kross—guitars
Boris Goudonof—Hammond organ

Produced by:

Margot Smith, Steve Kilbey, Michael Wade

Comments:

It is pretty amazing. It is dark and moody, somewhat in the diva tradition, of say Sarah Craig.... Yes, there is something that makes me think of Sarah Craig—perhaps the voice, perhaps the general attitude. If you'd like to hear what practically amounts to The Church with a female frontperson try this. Personally I like this one better than The Church as such. Not that I have anything against The Church—I think this is just my own preference for female voices rearing its ugly head :) (afries@zip.com.au)

Hard to imagine, but I like this album even more than Sleeping with the Lion. While still musically beautiful, it seems even more complex and a little more angry. Deeper. I'm still learning it and I think I will be learning it for a long time to come—there's a lot to hear, a lot to sink in. Powerful music. Dark and a little messy. This album proves Margot Smith's talent for me, and I play it often. Highly, highly recommended, and definitely one of the best albums of the year. (Neile)

I initially did not care for this when I first picked it up, but I listened to it again a month or two ago and was quite impressed. None of the songs on it grabbed me like "Bellyman" did, however. It's well worth picking up though, that's for sure. (bvmi@odin.cc.pdx.edu)


inhumaninane

As Margot Smith and the 9 Lonely Spirits

Release info:

2011

Availability:

See Margot Smith's site

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Margot Smith—vocals

Guest artists:

Sue Campbell, Steve Kilbey, John Kilbey, Peter Koppes, Ben Kross, Tim Powles, David Rule, David Skeet, Michael Wade

Comments:

Like her second release, taste, this is dark and moody and glorious and somewhat loose. It is not terribly cohesive as an album (though the individual songs are), but damn it's haunting, and not simply because I know it will be her last release. From the first track (a painfully poignant and beautiful instrumental piano piece, "The Secret") this is intense. It's hard not to feel that on this collection and on taste that Margot Smith was sharing the intensity and messy beauty of her talent and her life, though obviously it is unfair to read too much biography into this. Still, her voice here is evocative of so much pain and beauty I can't escape it, especially when she sings lines like "what we are or could have been / could have been" ("Planet Queen") and that both albums include the haunting song, "Drunk as...", when apparently alcohol was one of the causes of her life and career being so brief.
     In any case, this album shows her amazing talents: her powerful songwriting, and how she could pack her lovely, evocative voice with emotion. I am grateful to her friends who have made this music available. (Neile)

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DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2015-05-25 00:19:48.
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