From the pages of the CMJ New Music Report, Issue: 449 - Oct 30, 1995
Retsin is the union between two of indie-rock's
most respected female musicians: Tara Jane O'Neill (of Rodan) and Cynthia
Nelson (of Ruby Falls). The two women began writing songs together on
the set of the film Half-Cocked last year, and after numerous excursions
between their respective hometowns (Louisville for O'Neill, New York
City for Nelson), they had put together all of the pieces that make
up Salt Lick. The EP is like a cut-and-paste: Nelson and O'Neill recorded
bits of songs on their own (most of it on eight-tracks), and then plastered
it all into an amazingly cohesive whole. Both women contribute guitar,
bass and vocal parts and, in doing so, have built a strong, soulful
collection of tunes that get their energy from the perfect meeting of
minds between the two. There is a gentle sadness to the vocals (lyrics
like "I can feel blue in my blue room" make us teary) which are delivered
on a bed of fuzzed-out strumming. Above all else, it is the songs' combination
of rawness and placidity that gives them their intensity: They are lullabies
that will leave you sleepless.
Egg Fusion CD
From the pages of the CMJ New Music Report, Issue: 473 - May 6, 1996
Not everyone can succeed at four-track recording.
The back-to-basics nakedness of lo-fi, with no blanket of glossy production
and technical re-mastering (no place to hide, in other words), scares
the devil out of most musicians. To many traditionalists, those who
can pull it off are the real musical stars. And in that respect, Retsin
is a supernova. The union of two well-respected indie-rockers (Tara
Jane O'Neill of Rodan and Cynthia Nelson of Ruby Falls), Retsin follows
up its acclaimed `95 EP Salt Lick, with Egg Fusion, a barefoot, 14-song
trek down a dusty back road of raw, biting emotions that are eloquently
exorcised through both the music and the lyrics. These ladies are so
lo-fi, you probably won't be able to hum any of these tunes in your
leisure, but you won't soon forget the collective whole. High points
include the small simmer to raging boil progression of "BB," the almost
indecipherable "Tamale" (not even the lyric sheet will help you with
this one), and the slow drawl of "Duck Out," whose introductory police
sirens will have you thinking "Memorex" before submitting to the coincidence
of "live." Egg Fusion is a prime example of the fact that sometimes
simpler is indeed better.
-M. TYE COMER
EGG Fusion CD
From Gravity Girl
This is as close to perfection as bedroom
recording can get. A collaboration between Louisville's wonderful Tara
Jane O'Neil (Rodan, the Sonora Pine) and pal Cynthia Lynn Nelson (Ruby
Falls), Egg Fusion lecherously taps the emotional vein, its acousticy
charm both instant and distant, bleeding with a deep distinctively drawn
consistency. The key to this record is that distance. Not meaning that
vocals are made distant by knob-twiddling, but actually recorded at
a distance. This creates an organic, humid thickness, both extremely
admirable and enticingly listenable. The beautifully warm Southern vocals
of TJO and CLN only add a wonderful painterly quality to the heavy mid-summer
night sweat, "it was too dark to see the stars..."
The honest beauty and melancholy of the vocals create heart-binding
moods where there really shouldn't be, lyrics like: "I'm only looking
at pictures of cucumbers dipped in ink...", "tamale, tamale..." and
"I"m a kangaroo" shouldn't knot your stomach, but the delivery is so
sweetly laced that they glaze the eyes without fail. They take the grand
dynamic contrasts of Slint and make them humble, the discordant beauty
of Rodan and melt it into sensitivity. Retsin embrace the contrasts,
but rather than stretch them to breaking point, they are interwoven
with assured touch.
"Planets shift and stars run dry; stars they all fall from the sky..."
bb sees the guitars at their rusted razor-sharpest, meandering and passionate;
and Hottie Titmouse hyperventilates with messy terror, live drums and
loose percussion swirling around frenetic guitars. But across the board,
this is definitely more of a late night, Palace Brothers kind of record.
Duck Out most distinctively embraces the country sound: "hand them a
mirror, cause they don't know who they are til they're characterised..."
the gals croon; seemingly effortless in their charms. "But they'll rot
as fast as peaches, fall like matchsticks in a fire..." Elsewhere opener
Fly South, Loon and Tamale make most use of twin vocal lines, and the
setting of Egg Fusion offers O'Neil's voice a chance to shine, her vocals
having improved remarkably since Rodan days. her vox shine brightly
in the wonderous Kangaroo, which is poignant, uplifting, simply gorgeous;
"wouldn't it be good if I could stay true to you and your dreams..."
"She tells a story like a cornfield grows". Red Wing is really the only
guitar noodling, meandering track, largely evident of the non-constraintive
feel of the record, while A Duplex For Sidewinders is the most developed,
ocarina and, courtesy of producer Steve Good, bass clarinet divining
the requisite sublime vocals.
In that every song conveys sheer pleasure in its delivery, and is etched
with obvious emotional reassurance; this is a record that settles as
a small, humble, reluctant, reclusive masterpiece.
- Anthony Carew
Retsin and the Sonora Pine: Indie Intertwinings
from the Boston Phoenix: 1996
In Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky's independent film Half-Cocked
(1995), five restless twentysomethings steal a van full of rock gear,
christen themselves Truckstop, and pretend they're on tour. The differences
between masquerading as a band and actually being one, the film seems
to suggest, may not be all that great. Both require a considerable degree
of emotional and physical commitment, and neither guarantees a paycheck
at the end of the day.
To complicate matters, Truckstop comprised members of various indie-rock
outfits, two of whom -- former Rodan bassist Tara Jane O'Neil and Ruby
Falls frontwoman Cynthia Lynn Nelson -- have gone on to form a "real"
band called Retsin, who will headline a show at the Middle East this
Saturday night. And Egg Fusion, Retsin's homespun full-length
debut on Simple Machines, is only one of two new discs that highlights
O'Neil's talents as a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist.
She's also featured on a homonymous release by the Sonora Pine (Quarterstick/Touch
& Go), a moody foursome she formed with former Rodan drummer Kevin Coultas,
Lungfish/June of 44 guitarist Sean Meadows, and violinist Samara Lubelski.
(Completing her hat trick, O'Neil joins Coultas as the rhythm section
on Near Life Experience, the new disc by the Boston band Come,
which is due from Matador on May 21,1996.
There's a naturalness and emotional clarity on Egg Fusion that
transcends its lo-fi origins. O'Neil and Nelson achieve a kind of effortless
symbiotic chemistry that fuels the sublime moodiness of the disc and
balances spare, confessional folk against rough-textured rock without
settling into the bland void of folk rock. Think of it as what the Indigo
Girls might have sounded like if they'd been raised by Sonic Youth,
or a musical marriage between Dusty Springfield and Dinosaur Jr. "From
the city's mouth to the falls of the Ohio," the two women harmonize
against a Spartan backdrop of naked acoustic guitars on the disc's opener,
"Fly South." That's an accurate reflection of the territory covered
by O'Neil, a native of Louisville, and her New York City-bred counterpart.
And it's an indication of where their music is headed when drummer Greta
Ritcher joins them on the next track; the hootenanny spirit gets an
edgy injection of rattling snare and noisy electric guitars, and the
lyrics a shot of urban grit. (Bassist Todd Cook of For Carnation fills
out Retsin's live line-up.) Elsewhere, O'Neil and Nelson pepper their
poignant songs with street noises and ominous feedback ("Duck Out"),
surreal echoes and dreamy vocals ("Barefoot & Stones"), and a little
country twang and city-girl attitude ("Kangaroo"). They create a warm
atmosphere permeated by understated charm and wistful beauty.
A darker, more ominous current flows through the debut by the Sonora
Pine, who coalesced in New York City in the fall of '94 when Meadows
arrived from Tennessee to hook up with O'Neil and Coultas. The CD was
recorded a year later in Louisville by Shellac's Bob Weston on an eight-track
at O'Neil's house. The disc opens with a funereal instrumental featuring
O'Neil on pump organ and little else. When Meadows's angular guitar
and Coultas's forceful backbeat kick in on "Compass Lure," the Sonora
Pine recall the edgy intensity of Rodan. When O'Neil steps forward with
her lovely voice and Lubelski's violin settles into the meditative backdrop
on "The Gin Mills," "Goldmund," and "The Hook," the Sonora Pine generate
a sophisticated kind of simplicity -- an engaging cohesiveness that
makes it hard to believe this won't be a "real" band until June, when
they'll regroup to tour with Come.
-- Matt Ashare