Mimi Goese & Ben Neill


Great review in Knoxville News Sentinel


Mimi Goese & Ben Neill’s “Songs for Persephone”
“Songs for Persephone,” Mimi Goese & Ben Neill (Ramseur)

“Songs for Persephone” is high-concept music teased at by the cover photo of a split pomegranate, the fruit that bound the Greek goddess Persephone to Hades. The performance-art release, compiled by Mimi Goese & Ben Neill from their multimedia musical theater piece “Persephone,” reflects classical music and the 19th century Romantic era. Lyrically, vocalist Goese explores existence in the mundane, her words adrift in abstract observations.

The good news is listeners don’t have to have degrees in philosophy, music history or mythology to appreciate this bewitching project.

Goese is one of those rarefied singers with cult-following potential, her associations with Hugo Largo and Hector Zazou leading to “Songs for Persephone,” where she echoes 1990s-era Jane Siberry. Her breathtaking, arching refrain “For all the love” on opener “Roma” is icon-making stuff, followed by the wrenching kicker, “We all need a little kindness now and then.”

Instrumentalist Neill — working with guest cellists, a drummer and a bass player — creates an air of electronic chill and glitchy distractions in his programming, and he layers in his own “mutantrumpet,” an electronic-acoustic hybrid whose tone is both lonely and surreal.

Goese’s metaphysical mission is delineated on “Cusp”: “I rove the universe collecting thoughts and memories,” her gorgeous and clear voice leading her to consider deeper meaning in the stealthy ways of a river on the pulsing “Resonata,” to contemplate an out-of-context keepsake box pulled from a fire on “A Lovely Goodbye” and to mourn a dying sparrow on the moving “Elegy.”

If you open your mind to Goese and Neill, they’ll likely open your heart.

Rating (five possible): 4

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New series of Limited Edition Art Boxes created in collaboration with Habitat for Artists is available now!

Artists from Simon Draper‘s HABITAT for ARTISTS Project have created original and limited edition works inspired by the music from SONGS for PERSEPHONE.

Each work is a unique response by the artist to a song or the album as a whole. All works are 9″ by 9″, contained within boxes made by the artists from recycled material from the HFA project. Works are priced individually. This collaboration was the concept of artist SIMON DRAPER, founder of HFA and follows the mission of HFA to seek new audiences in communities & to further all aspects of creativity.

The first editions by Richard Bruce and Carol Flaitz are available now in our STORE and on our website. Other participating artists whose work you will be seeing soon include:

Lisa Breznak, Carla Goldberg, Marnie Hillsley, Brian Beaton and Lorraine Gregus, Susan Walsh , Todd Sargood, Jackie Garparre, and Simon Draper

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American Songwriter review

Songs for Persephone is reviewed in the American Songwriter blog. Here’s what they said:

Mimi Goese & Ben Neill
Songs for Persephone
Rating: 4 stars

Anyone familiar with Mimi Goese’s previous work–the two gorgeous albums recorded with art-rockers Hugo Largo, her collaborations with Moby, and her lush solo record–will know what to expect: dramatic mini-operas featuring Goese’s other-worldly soprano and quietly reflective lyrics.

If the usual theatricality is taken to an even more spectacular degree here, it is because these songs, written with trumpeter Ben Neill, were commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music for their famed Next Wave festival, and formed the centerpiece of a multimedia performance starring Julia Stiles. Each piece is based on a fragment by Berlioz, Donizetti, Grieg, Schumann, or another Romantic-period composer, and placed in a verdant electro-orchestral arrangement that makes great use of Goese’s soaring vocals and Neill’s own invention, the “mutantrumpet.” Brooding, moody synth numbers (“Elegy,” “Stargazer”) nestle with heraldic, brassy showstoppers (“If You Lie Awake,” “Blackpool”), all equally affecting.

In direct contrast to Goese’s expansive voice and the drama of the arrangements, the delicate lyrics reflect on life’s small, golden moments. “A pearl. A glove. A bit of leather/…Here is my story told in

pieces.” The sparse but effective words almost sound translated from another tongue.

The album closer, appropriately titled “World’s End” ends clamorously, abruptly, followed by the almost imperceptible, a capella line “All’s quiet,” encapsulating in one brief instant the beautiful contrasts that mark Romantic art in general and Goese’s oeuvre specifically.

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