On Charlotte Martin's latest album, Stromata, the songstress presents her most experimental work to date. Stromata presents Martin's typically earnest and honest lyrics against a complex background of synthesizers and electronic beats. Her influences on the album are so varied - from techno to folk to Middle Eastern - that the album lacks a sense of cohesion. Martin is a classically-trained singer with a powerful voice that cuts to the core, but even her aggressive vocals get lost in overproduced techno-infused tracks like "Little Universe."
It is when Martin strips the background - and gets back to her On Your Shore roots - that she shines brightest. Tracks like "A Hopeless Attempt" and "Inch" have simpler melodies, which showcase her adept vocals and create a more intimate sound. At times her vocals echo those of Bjork and Tori Amos - fans of Amos' From the Choirgirl Hotel will appreciate the album's melancholic sound. Lyrically, Stromata is an intriguing and insightful examination of sexual desire and love, the "forbidden fruit" and "demons" she acknowledges in "Redeemed." One of Martin's greatest strengths in this album is her refreshing candor. In "Keep Me In Your Pocket" she asks her lover to "sink your teeth into the taste of me and squeeze hard/til you can feel me splitting and you want more." "The Dance" is a meditation on a relationships end, in which she decides she "better stop crying/hello and goodbying...you get your time and the other half's mine."
Stromata features some lyrical misfires; "Drip" being the worst offender with "can't train myself to hold back any longer/breath mint fornicator." Despite this transgression, however, the album is largely intriguing and insightful. With infectious hooks ("Four Walls") and lyrical gems ("Redeemed" and "The Dance"), Stromata is worth your attention.