Irish singer-songwriter Róisín Murphy, best known as the vocalist in electronic music duo Moloko (responsible for the modern disco classic Sing it Back), has been busy with motherhood and her upcoming third solo album to be released later this year. However, she also has time to also record an Italian-language EP with updated covers of 1960s and 1970s Italian pop hits.
Working with producers Sebastiano Properzi (who is her partner as well) and Eddy Stevens, Murphy works her trippy, electronic and ambient sound into songs that are clearly not only from another culture but from another era altogether.
The James Bond theme-like Ancora Ancora Ancora certainly suited the brash Italian vocalist Mina, but Murphy effectively captures the original’s drama and grandiosity in her subdued, quirky version (though it ends on a rather bizarre note) with her own triumphant vocals.
Pensiero Stupendo (initially by Patty Pravo) shows off more of Murphy’s sultry, jazzy contralto over a chilled, pulsating instrumental track that proves to be a grower. Male ‘bah-bah’ harmonies cement an insistent groove and turn the choruses into a real bop for listeners.
Lucio Battisti’s Acora Tu is transformed into a gentle dance track. Murphy turns the opening words into a quasi-rap over a steady drum machine. After the key change, she belts defiantly towards the end over Popcorn-like keyboard hits as effortlessly as Grace Jones on her performance of La Vie En Rose.
Murphy’s sole original In Sintesi is both a throwback to The Works-era Queen and Modern Talking (thanks to its crisp 1980s drum machine beats) and Sing it Back (with its relaxed, sexy vibe and guitar-like synths). Her alien-like vocals may be processed, but not to the point of derision. Instead, the vocoder and other vocal effects make this track sound even cooler and out of this world.
Non Credere (another Mina cover) exposes a cowering Murphy over a sparse electronic track. It projects utter despair, which may explain why Murphy found this track and the opener to be the most difficult to record.
A take on Gino Paoli’s La Gatta lightens the proceedings only slightly, as it would suit a frolic in a forbidden forest. It is an unsettling affair, with an out of tune piano, synths taken from a Teletubbies soundtrack, an unusually in-tune acoustic guitar and loud wind-blowing with the potential to unleash the horror within.
Róisín Murphy delivers convincing performances on these Italian tracks. This EP succeeds in combining both the theatrically of the originals with Murphy’s own sound. It will certainly make the wait for her new album less painful.