Library Music

Plugging the holes in your record collection: Sibylle Baier's The Colour Green

SIBYLLE BAIER,THE COLOUR GREEN (2006, ORANGE TWIN)

Sibylle Baier. Photo courtesy Orange Twin
Sibylle Baier. Photo courtesy Orange Twin

Sometimes these things happen: pyramids push out of jungles and manuscripts slip out of archives and reel-to-reel records drop out of closets, and everything known in the world until that point has to shove over and make a little room. So mystery girl Sibylle Baier, out of eclipse after long-lost time: she was the wife of a reputable German screenwriter (Jo Baier? Just guessing) and friend/acquaintance of director Wim Wenders (Sibylle contributed a single song to, and appeared in, Wenders' 1974 film Alice in the Cities) and mother of Robby Baier, the blando-but-hopeful Teutonic rocker with a big thing for the Rolling Stones. But Robby had enough softer sense to clean up Sibylle's unreleased acoustic-guitar recordings and then (to sink back into rumor) pass them along to Dino Jr's J Mascis, who (somehow?) got them to the members of the band Elf Power/captains of the label Orange Twin/stalwarts of the Athens, Georgia, eco-conservation community also called Orange Twin, who put them out for the first time ever just last month, more than 30 years after they were recorded, played for friends and family, and then put back in the closet. But a world that can still conceal and release music like this means our reservoir isn't yet empty—Colour is welcome small notice that there was one more living human out there that you didn't know about. After a long trip that snapped her out of smothering depression, Colour was recorded—if not in fact, then in feel—in a house full of people sleeping, with a rhythm like water falling in drops. Even Nick Drake's Pink Moon or John Martyn's Bless the Weather don't get this quiet—everything about Colour Green winds around a somber, reverent stillness, a solemnity that makes her bedroom into your cathedral. She speaks/sings so close to the mic you can make out the shadows under her face; she changes her chords to follow her words, instead of counting cadence for by-the-numbers songwriting; though a native German speaker, she sings here in English without benefit of (or temptation toward) ornamental metaphor, finding instead an irreducible, exhausted simplicity that sits obviously on the bottom bedrock of her personality. And she has that same sad basso voice as Nico—poor German girls must carry so much weight. Colour returns again and again—at a familiar slow pace—to things lost just long enough now to be able to be remembered ("The End": "The time is over when we could simply say 'I love you'/Now you open the door/Leave me cryin'/Tryin' to embrace you/Leave me to face this damn situation/It's the end, friend of mine . . .") or found and loved anew ("Tonight": "When I came home from work/There he unforeseen/Said what's that sorrow you bear/And I could tell him/He understood/He listened to my tears till dawn/I dedicate this song to you . . .") or sometimes just abandoned in between ("Forgett": "Though I'm not out of the woods yet/I feel so good/Forget came . . ."). Colour is a set of recordings about hurt and healing, made by a woman herself hurt and healing, as they were made—an album so alive and affecting and human it might now sleep in your bed, safe and loved after 30 years lost. 

 
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