Khamsina - Dreaming Ivy artwork

Khamsina: Dreaming Ivy (Bia Records)

After a few listens to this record, one begins to wonder whether the lady concerned has bagged a lucrative sponsorship deal with Frost’s or Wyevale’s, such is the lyrical emphasis on the mystical joys of garden plant life. Khamsina’s songs are a veritable herbaceous border of forget-me-nots, ivy, lavender (with associated bees), and for all I, know ericaceous compost and second early spuds. I can’t completely vouch for the latter, as I’ve usually nodded off before a given song finally makes an end.

About the only thing that isn’t wrong with this album is Khamsina’s voice. Crisp and sweet, it sparkles like the cider in one of those old Magners’ adverts (before they got all weird with elderly psychopaths plodding around country lanes with bees in their beards). She can occasionally be shrill, but in the main she sounds pretty convincing as a keening Celtic maiden from a piece of Erse poetry, languishing among the oaks and elms. If you harbour a lingering affection for the Cranberries (come on folks, it’s not as shameful as liking Crowded House!), you’ll greet Khamsina’s voice like an old friend.

Sadly, there are no tunes on this record as memorable as ‘Linger’ or ‘Zombie’. The pace is typically stately to the point of deathly and Khamsina can never deliver two verses when she can knock out five. I suppose Bat for Lashes (whom I hate) is a jumping off point to describe her sound, which is dominated by naively spooky, minor-key piano figures suffused with portentous synthetic strings and doomy, minimalist beats. She’s not averse to the odd cringeworthy sample either (gunshots, wind and a stonking great gong a la ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’), which help complete a sound world that’s both dull and cluttered.

Over a gargantuan thirteen tracks I can’t honestly find a single one that I can finish, never mind recommend, as Khamsina’s melodic and lyric writing is as weak as her voice is strong. The title track may be the best of the bunch for its opening piano gambit and a sturdy chorus but how can you make anything convincing out of such flabby abstractions as “We don’t have the same technology/10,000 years in the front and we’re losing/ but we will continue to play our mortal game/while they will keep on winning in the flame”?

Overall, then, I think I’d rather spend an afternoon at Dobbie’s chowing down on blood, bone and fish meal than listen to this stultifying, deadening record one more time.

Khamsina on Reverbnation

  • gappytooth

    You know this is a CMac review before the first sentence is out. Good stuff.  However, my opinion might be invalidated by the fact I like the 1st Cranberries LP (before all that “Zombie” rubbish), and I own a fair few Crowded House records.

    It’s come to something when MacKinnon claims your tastes are too tame!

  • LD_rhul

    What a shame that the only good thing you have to say about Khamsina is that her voice is ‘crisp and sweet’. Not only does Khamsina’s voice sparkle, but so does the album and her lyrics. Clearly your ability to understand and interpret metaphor in a song is beyond your own skills, but not beyond the fabulously talented Khamsina who wrote most of this album at school, I love the album and the recognition that Khamsina is recieving at the moment highlights her abilities more and more.

  • Simon Minter

    It’s always good to get opinions that differ from the reviewers’ – thanks for the comment.

  • Cortez

    This vitriolic review of a talented teenager’s first album is indicative of the state the so called music scene in Oxford finds itself in. Clicky and myopic.  

  • Beaverfuel

    Oh good, there’s a war brewing. These are usually such fun to read.

  • Ilikegardencentres

    Your review clearly shows that you have no imagination and I don’t know how you can justify writing about something you don’t even understand.  You’ve shown that you’ve missed the extraordinary talent of Khamsina and her power of showing other peoples emotion. This review has bypassed the despair of trapped women in ‘Nevermore’, the power of nature and the destruction of nature in ‘Dreaming Ivy’ and ‘Lavender and Bees’ as well as the terrible struggle of the daughter in ‘Father and King’. Maybe if you actually *finished* one of Khamsina’s tracks you might actually understand lyrical structures of her music or perhaps you might need to get a degree first as you seem to be reviewing way beyond your depth. You could also try reading her blogs so you actually have knowledge of what this artist has done with her life. Rather than slating her with words you probably don’t even understand. 

  • Spikymikey

    Love that you think Colin needs to get a degree to undertsand the music when, so far as I know, he’s already got a doctorate and is therefore far cleverer than you or I. I still never get why some people get so irate about bad reviews. Khamsina obviously sent her album in to be assessed. If that assessment is negative, live with it or don’t ask in the first place.
     Also love the idea that the local scene is “clicky”. Wondered what that funny noise in the background was.

  • Samantha

    ….it’s obvious Colin has not got a doctorate in Music…..Lol!  

  • Rosco_TEV

    I love the way people are kicking off while Khamsina seems to be taking it as all reviews good or bad should be, with a sense of humor and a smile. Just seen her retweet below.

  • Beaverfuel

    People forget that the reviewer is just expressing their own opinion*, and what many also fail to realise is that a damning review will often interest people enough to listen to the music and make their own minds up! I’ll also point out that reviewers will usually review the music without getting personal, unlike many of the people who comment on the review…

    *The exception to this is when the reviewer incorrectly states things as fact, before anyone dredges up a certain EP review from 4 years ago…

  • gappytooth

    “Cleverer than you or me”, you mean.  I don’t know, there are some degree-less peasants round here…

  • gappytooth

    Good on her!

  • Simon Minter

    Indeed, good on her. As Beaverfuel mentioned, the review (harsh though it might be – somewhat unfairly in my opinion) is just his own opinion, and doesn’t get particularly personal. That’s what comments are good for – to let other people with differing opinions get them heard!

    However, whoever sent an (apparently nasty) email directly to Khamsina that’s just prompted a complaint to the site – presumably you know who you are – please don’t do that again. It’s just a review, but that’s just not on…

  • Save_Garden_Centres

    Don’t worry, little bit of local jealousy Stevie. Well done in your recent success!!!

  • Kangaroosupmyarse

    Have to disagree, she’s incredible. It’s fair for everyone to have an opinion, but I don’t believe you can form one without being considerate enough to finish a song. That doesn’t make for a fair review. Also, you come across as a bit pompous and bitter. I wouldn’t employ you as a reviewer. Over all, I’d rather spend the afternoon listening to Khamsina’s beautiful voice and thought provoking lyrics than reading your obnoxious review and over use of terms no one uses for fear of sounding like they’ve swallowed a thesaurus whole.