Photo Credit: Jennie Litt
With characteristic self-deprecating humor, Carol Lipnik dedicated her set of original songs and quirky covers at Pangea to “The Goddess of Imperfection.”
Lipnik has one foot in the avant-garde and one foot in the sideshow tradition of her native Coney Island. Outfitted in robin’s-egg-blue satin with a leaf-patterned wrap, her long-nailed fingers knobby with rings, with long, lank, red locks, she had the look of a side-show fortuneteller, theatrical yet earthy. It is her voice, though, that sets her apart from the more run-of-the-mill sideshow attractions: an other-worldly 4-octave instrument that contains multitudes of colors.
Supported by Matt Kanelos at the piano, and by recorded tracks and electronics that looped and echoed her voice phrase by phrase, Lipnik wove a spell with mystical originals about goddesses (The Goddess of Imperfection, Lipnik/Ortiz), mermaids (Undine Outwitted, Lipnik), post-apocalyptic musings (So Said The Replicant, Lipnik), and poison (Tick Bite, Lipnik). Her evocative lyrics use symbolic and poetic language that fits well with the atmospheric music.
I did find myself more engaged with her covers than with her originals, however. In her cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put A Spell On You, she used all four octaves of her voice to growl, belt, soar, and float, in a performance that was truly remarkable. I closed my eyes to enjoy the beauty of her interpretation of Stardust (Carmichael/Parrish), despite the odd liberties she and Kanelos took with melody and harmony. The most interesting non-original of the night was Thomas Campion’s 1617 Thrice Toss These Oaken Ashes, which she described as “a series of spells to make someone love you back.” Lipnik’s sui generis performance style allows her to move effortlessly from Elizabethan air to the Great American Songbook to straight-up American blues, and to make these disparate selections all her own.
Two numbers stood out particularly: Leonard Cohen Diaries, Cohen’s words set to Lipnik’s music, was a loving and appropriate tribute to an artist who has obviously been highly influential over Lipnik’s own art; and a melancholy, stark, and—dare I say it?—weird Moon River (Mercer/Mancini), which Lipnik punctuated with a KaZobo solo (a KaZobo is a jumbo kazoo with a horn)—a moment that perfectly embodied Lipnik’s adopted persona of avant-garde sideshow mystic, with tongue held firmly in cheek.