Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Pepi Ginsberg spins fear into beauty, at the same time she's spinning beauty into fear. It tends to work well, both ways for the Philadelphian songwriter. It's without any desire to cause a disturbance or any reason for disorder and hand-wringing that Ginsberg sits at a figurative wheel and does this, but without many other ways of explaining it, black storm clouds are always cooking and kicking up when she gets to writing. It's as if one of those clear blue afternoons, on a late spring day, metamorphoses into a gradually-to-rapidly deconstructed abstraction of peacefulness, trending within heartbeats toward something that is going to pound out thunder, frightening every dog in its path and cause a weathered onslaught. It's bottling that moment when the anger of the old girl of a storm starts to pry its way into the picture, with the light outdoors turning a shade of amber and darkening like a roof's been thrown over everything, all while an snorting, take no prisoners wind starts blasting, knocking branches from sturdy trees and making everything stationary whistle a little bit - unused to the violent treatment. It's Ginsberg standing off in the wings, mesmerized by the sudden shift in scene as well, bringing out the huskiness in her throat to help make hide and hair of what's going on at that very moment. It's a wrestling match between old comforts and startlingly new revelations that creeps into her inquisitive head first and most often when such things happen. The songs on her latest album, "East Is East," are not downpours though. They aren't really gloomy in a larger sense, but in the way that Ginsberg sings - with huge bursts of air and demonstrative exclamations - and in the country-ish, folk kind of delivery of the tattered rock and roll, there's often some sort of loss happening to the principle characters involved. The skies are blackened for a reason and notice has been served and taken that the windows might need to be boarded up for a little while to keep whatever's trying to get in, out. Her words are all about protection, about fighting so mightily to reserve all rights to choose the actions that are going to be taken on whomever is speaking or living in that space. They are about reluctantly letting everything just tear through like a tide and letting the sometimes ruthlessness of time to sort it out. She sings about the search for happiness and the constant strain that occurs when you're striving to hold onto it - even when she's not meaning to sing about it. It might just be a veiled way of willing it - of not hastening the decline or the disintegration. She sings about "hunting for your tan skin," and remembers earlier times as if they were such distant memories, seared into a body, suggesting on "Summer Sick As Love, "I think about you and how hard we tried." It's without a doubt that time has been costly in that instance and as the years flutter away, get torn down from a calendar's hanged location, it will only get more costly, making former happiness seem less and less so or even escape recollection all together. It happens to be these changes that burst Ginsberg, make her sing, "I've spent days measuring the breeze," and wondering how she handles those words and what they mean to her. Our guess is that in all of those days spent, she's been mortified by how many times those winds change and she might well up just a little, every now and again, overcome by that beautiful fear of the next wind.
Pepi Ginsberg Official Site