There is something in Sílvia Pérez Cruz’s voice so pure that it makes you lose your mind. You wonder where it possibly can be coming from, for it seems a thing of nature, but utterly unique, a plant never before seen, yet born organically. There ought to be many of them, but there is only one, yet at the same time it sprouts anew whenever you hear it. It is earth and it is sky. It is water and fire, old and new, nascent, primal, human and divine.
I have now listened, three times, to the Deluxe Edition of the CD of GRANADA that I bought after her performance, with the guitarist Raül Fernandez Miró, on Tuesday night at (le) poisson rouge. The first listen was bound to disappoint. One wants the flower just seen, but the photo doesn’t capture it. Luckily, time is mysterious and memory unexigent. A few days later and listening to the CD restores the event, recalls the moment, keeps it afloat in the memory. GRANADA is a powerful document, and, in its unadorned simplicity – voice and guitar – a precious one.
At (le) poisson rouge was the second time I have seen them; the first was a year ago at Joe’s Pub. The material was mostly the same, but it felt new. Cruz, from Barcelona, has a pedigree in flamenco, and you hear in her voice the tremulous wail of the cante flamenco, like leaves caught in an updraft, but in unexpected places, in songs not flamenco but touched by it, surprisingly. Piaf, Schumann, Bowie, Cohen, Parra, Morente … her repertory is astoundingly broad – folk, lieder, jazz, cabaret, rock – but really her genre is just song. That is, perhaps, what makes Cruz special, for the voice is the first instrument, the one we carry in our bodies when all else is unavailable. She is one of the world’s great singers, not least because she reminds us that song is fundamental and the voice is basic.
Miró was coming down from what he described on Tuesday as a “hallucinogenic” combination of “flu” and jetlag. It had no effect, at least nothing negative, on his playing. His collaboration with someone like Cruz is fascinating. If she is primal and pure, he is edgy and experimental, on both acoustic and electric. There was a point when he literally locked his jaw on the guitar, and another when he collapsed face down on it but kept playing. I am not usually a fan of high frequency reverb, but coming from him it feels like emotion amplified and vibratory. Miró has a way of forcing a song to its heights, or its depths (it is hard to tell the difference), after which Cruz brings it to an end, with the softest of murmurs, a last breath, dying, in peace, on her lips.
Because the genre is song, Cruz is the heart of the body that she and Miró call GRANADA, which, as she pointed out, can mean either fruit or bomb, pomegranate or grenade. There is something of that complement and contrast in Cruz and Miró together. If hers is the voice in the wind, the leaf battered or fluttering, the cry at birth or the last exhale, that of Miró’s guitar is the updraft and the windshear on which it rides.