There may be many preshy "dream-girl" bands performing nightly under the radar out there, but perhaps none of them so bewitchingly swoon-worthy yet so storybook-ready to bear both fang and claw as Agent Ribbons. Tonight the trio, who have rightly been equated to sounding like Girls in the Garage doing the Three Penny Opera, will be appearing at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco (along with Girl In A Coma and Gringo Star) as they tour in support of their sophomore effort entitled Chateau Crone, slated for release on Antenna Farm Records this October 12th.
Since starting out as a duo in 2007, singer and guitarist Natalie Ribbons and drummer Lauren Hess have toured the U.S. tirelessly, playing with such noteworthy acts as Camera Obscura at the Fillmore Auditorium last year as well as sharing stages with bands like Cake and the Detroit Cobras. Their debut full-length release On Time Travel and Romance first hit the shelves at Amoeba Music in the form of custom-crafted CDs housed in handmade sleeves that showcased a tangible penchant for bygone aesthetics held together by found feathers, bells, lace, ribbons, glitter, glue and more than a little bit of stitch-witchery. Said debut has since been re-released on Broken Carousel and the ladies have collaborated with visual artist Dame Darcy on their limited edition candy-apple green vinyl release for Seven Inch Project as well as delivering a second 7", Your Love Is the Smallest Doll, released on Acuarela Discos in Europe and Japan, which marked the first appearance of Naomi Cherie on violin and cello. Originally from Sacramento, Agent Ribbons uprooted to Austin, Texas, which may or may not have something to do with their being banned in the U.K. in 2008.
At first listen Chateau Crone comes across as an album spurred by a strange arrangement of influences and genres, both musical and visual, yet every minute of it sounds threaded like baroque pop gems beaded concertedly in a triumph of heirloom costume jewelry. From the opening track "I'm Alright," which plays like a sunny Breeders/Elastica-esque summer beach jam complete with three-part harmonies and hazy, post-feminist allure; to songs like "Dada Girlfriend," what conjures up heady visions of languid, balletic graces akin to women as "green fairies" in Art Nouveau absinthe advertisements; to the plaster-cracking rocker-track "Wood, Lead, Rubber," that comes very close to capturing the shock of the missus Ribbons' live performance sound, the record seems to suggest gypsies canvasing the limitless expanse of a tannin-stained teapot (see track four, "I'll Let You Be My Baby"), or getting down in the Winchester mansion via a rabbit hole guest starring the Shaggs (see track seven, "Your Hands, My Hands"), or a possibility-ridden attic of functionally aged wardrobes (see track six, "Wallpaper of Skin"), or a displaced estate where one might escape to meet the Beales of Grey Gardens (see "Grey Gardens," track two) for sweet tea with Golden Girls on their banana-leaf steeped lanai (see track eight, "Oh, La La!"). It is, frankly, all that and then some, yet, nothing quite beats seeing these girls pound out their otherworldly girl-next-door compositions in the bare-footed flesh, as they truly give 200% of themselves on stage, balancing honest minimalism with theatrical rawness given what they have previously referred to as their "limited means" of musical outfitting (of course, that was said before Miss Naomi joined the band). I would say that with the kind of gumption these girls pack into a stage show, instruments other than their very presence are almost unnecessary!