By Deesha Philyaw
In the mid-2000s, I saw Christiane D perform live for the first time with Soma Mestizo. At the end of the set, I thought, “Cosmic.” Her voice, haunting, throaty, and otherworldly, left me half-expecting to open the club’s door and step directly into free-fall in a star-filled galaxy, instead of onto East Carson Street. Christiane had transformed the confines of the small venue into a personal planet that she ruled, stalking like a huntress, from the stage. Christiane’s lyrics, her bad-ass delivery, and the utter heartbreak of her voice let me know this woman had seen some things, been through some things. I was going through a divorce at the time. I wanted to know her.
Love, loss, and power were prevalent themes in Christiane’s songs back then, and she returns to these themes, with a bit less urgency, but no less fed up, on her fourth CD, Amor Fati. The title is Latin for “love of what happens”; some translations say, “love or acceptance of whatever comes.” And yes, the mood on the CD conveys acceptance, but also a reckoning, a clear-eyed accounting of the way things were:
You were my salvation…as long as you were the god that I was praying to
I was to be your bride, your patient (“Institution Proposal”)
Christiane is still calling you on “your bullshit…building walls” (“Bricks in the Sun”), but there’s also another conversation happening on Amor Fati, between past and present, younger self and present self, youth and experience:
When beauty begins to fade
And wisdom takes the stage
While I’m young, capture my rage
Then I’ll decide to turn the page (“Fading Rage”)
Some women artists declare a certain album their “grown woman” album. Christiane is incapable of creating anything but grown woman music. On Amor Fati, her vocals move seamlessly between electronic, soul, funk, and R&B. Occasionally, bright, happy chords evoke childhood and playfulness, but lyrically, Christiane is still “walking the streets angry as hell.”
By Albert Robertson
The two words that come to mind listening to the aptly-titled Amor Fati are “risk” and “reflection”. Without being overtly biographical, Chrissy Dee looks at the many fibers of emotion – love, loss, strength, and hope – that form the fabric of our relationships. Her vulnerability and vividly-portrayed antagonists are enough to make the listener jump into the story, and come to her defense. However, before you raise your finger and speak, “Wait,” she assures you with her faithful and powerful backup singers, “I know how to handle this.” And then, she both excoriates, and inspires, vindicating herself and the listener. As the hard-edged funk of “Institutional Proposal” eventually yields to the delicate strength of “Little One”, we see a Chrissy Dee who embraces the strength gained by fully living one’s love. For those who have followed Chrissy Dee’s career, rest assured that she brings the intricate blend of soul, rock, and funk that we’ve come to expect. For those who haven’t yet had the experience, prepare to meet the ex who is over you, the sister who comes to your aid, and your BFF who tells it exactly like it is.
By Brian Broome
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t grooved to a truly honest voice in years. We’ve lost them. It’s even a bit cliché to say now. But, all voices processed in American music are just that. Processed. They are put through filters and tuning machines and heaven knows what else. These are people who cannot sing; “entertainers”. I’m not sure when this started, but we’ve all gotten used to it and I was just grooving to one today. My beloved Janet Jackson was making me dance to her newest tune. And, before that, Rihanna was making me dance to her newest. It seems almost proscribed to put an imperfect, pure voice out there. But, this is where the humanity lies.
Christiane Leach’s Amor Fati (Love of Fate) landed in my inbox a few weeks ago and, at first, I didn’t know what to do with it. If you have allowed yourself to become trained on computer generated emotion, you won’t know either. The tracks are not heavily produced but run the gamut between highly grooveable and grounded like Institutional Proposal which actually got my ass off the couch to do sexy dances in my underwear (“It all makes sense”) at once sexy and haunting to a sullen whisper of tracks like Little One, a somber torch song of piano and voice. A voice that is reminiscent of Sade, breathy and serene.
The musical composition of Amor Fati is arranged such that the music does not overpower the voice and the voice does not overpower the music such as in tracks like Bricks in the Sun. A perfect combination of instrument and human instrument. The voice becomes more powerful here and more clear and angry.
“When beauty begins to fade”. My favorite track on the album absolutely has to be “Fading Rage”. Again, an honest and clear voice. Deceptively set up like a music box to calm the listener but packing a punch with lyrics like “walking the streets angry as hell” all with a polite and infinitely melodic piano luring the listener in from the background. “Just a lonely girl”.
Amor Fati on the whole is a different experience of music. It is a musical representation of “When beauty begins to fade and wisdom takes the stage”. Amor Fati isn’t interested in lulling you into a sense of comfort with overly produced vocals and a wall of sound. It’s interested in attracting you on a more human level with a clear voice that comes from a throat and pure music that comes from the heart of human trials and tribulation.
By Stephen H. Segal
“It all makes sense to me now,” Christiane Dolores chants on her new EP, Amor Fati, and the undercurrent of danger lurking in her fallen-angel voice demands we imagine just what sort of horrifying apocalypse she and her chill organ grooves are watching unfold.
Pittsburgh’s spookiest post-soul lyricist has been singing lush, Afro-futurist hymns to a broken universe since the turn of the millennium. Amor Fati slows her beats down and gives her words room to breathe, moving her vibe from the dance floor to a secret lounge where we can imagine sipping alchemic mystery potions while listening to her croon.
“Bricks in the Sun” is the collection’s masterpiece, a mythic anthem that evokes the woman herself as an being of earth and heat, molding the building blocks of her life from the mud beneath her feet and baking them till they’re tough enough to bear the weight of her spiritual damage. It’s a beautiful record, not a pretty one: If Janelle Monae is the Electric Lady, Christiane Dolores is the Quantum Witch, casting bursts of tonal discordance into her arrangements over and again to jar us loose from our melodic expectations. It’s a subtler dimension of world-building — but the frequency at which these cosmic strings are resonating keeps deepening with every listen. —Stephen H. Segal
By Alexi Morrissey
“With Amor Fati the artist Christiane Dolores tempts the casual listener to conjure up a strange cabaret where the legitimate quirkiness of Laurie Anderson, the poetic earnestness of Jeff Buckley and the jazz/gospel stylings of a glittering, long-dead era have been deliciously combined. But after a few listens you realize these sweet, catchy, air-tight songs have been been bought and paid for by a real woman over the course of a lifetime. If acceptance is the adult version of patience then this music shows you can have peace with a broken world.”
“One hand. Five fingers. Each leading me down a different road.
I liked not knowing what to expect. I knew that wherever I’d be taken, I’d be OK; I’d find my way back.
I heard sadness, anger, strength, frustration, erraticness, howling, dark playfulness, irritation, honesty, wisdom, tenderness, love. A country of emotions to travel in a handful of songs.”
By Justin Hopper
Christiane Dolores has combined elements of trip-hop and jazz, spoken word and psych-rock, to create a unique piano-led singer-songwriter sound aligned as much to 20th-century lieder as to R&B; part Kurt Weill, part Portishead. – Justin Hopper