St Vincent: a volatile marriage of ‘serene calmness and bristling aggression’
The singer and guitarist a unique, serrated, superfuzz playing style developed across four chamber rock albums
Originality is not an accolade bandied about so much these days but Texan musical innovator Annie Clark in ice queen / guitar hero guise as St Vincent is surely a one-off, with a unique, serrated, superfuzz playing style which she has developed across four quirky chamber rock albums. The Smithsonian Institution certainly thinks so, awarding Clark their American Ingenuity Award for Performing Arts last year.
Clark credits her single-minded creative vision in part to an obsessive nature. It recently came to light that she is no slouch with a football, having developed her sweet soccer skills through constant practice as a child growing up in Texas. When she ditched football for guitar in her early teens, she applied herself just as rigorously to her new passion.
Her uncle Tuck Andress, who played in a jazz duo with his wife Patti, was a huge formative influence, introducing Clark to John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, and for a while she pursued her own training in jazz before dropping out of Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music and returning to Texas to play with indie acts Sufjan Stevens and the Polyphonic Spree.
But Clark has resisted categorisation when it comes to her own music. She has always had a taste for heavy sounds, whether playing in a high school Metallica covers band or opening for Queens of the Stone Age and the Black Keys. Most recently, she has sung on the latest Swans album and with the surviving members of Nirvana at the band’s Rock And Roll Hall of Fame induction.
St Vincent’s playing isn’t especially heavy but it is enormously potent, a volatile marriage of ‘serene calmness and bristling aggression’ which she has exploited on her self-titled fourth album and in her wonderfully eccentric live show.
ABC, Glasgow, Tue 26 Aug.