The Phantom Tollbooth
Artist: Mila Drumke
Label: Littlepro Records

Say, for instance, you stopped over and checked out a stack of CD's lurking somewhere in the disarray that is my humble living space-­you'd be wondering, no doubt, how Autour de Lucie, Abba, Tori Amos and Hanson made it into the same stack. No doubt there are now laws against Hanson in at least one or two states, for all I know ­ Well, then, pardon me, step aside as I slip this little disc under "D", for "Drumke," as in "Mila Drumke." Since all it takes for me to get excited is a good singing voice, (and don't even dare tell me any of the aforementioned can't sing, I always win those arguments) and this Mila chick can sure sing, I had no choice to add this latest record of hers, "Illinois" to my pile. I stumbled across this one completely by accident the other day, but it was certainly a happy accident.

The album opens with a quirky little number entitled "Super 8," and the lyrical content isn't grabbing me just yet, but as she launches into "Constance," I realize that wouldn't even matter anymore, because her vocals are pretty much knocking me flat, they're so charming. Part voluptuous siren, part purest of angels and just a touch of "Jersey hooker" (its an east coast thing) thrown in to roughen up the edges, she cries "Love me!" and fool that I am, I've fallen once more.

The list of raves preceding my little review read like a who's who in the alternative press--everyone to the Village Voice to OUTLines is completely over heels about Ms. Drumke, so I'm certainly breaking no ground or introducing to any best kept secrets, however, readers of this fine publication may not be familiar with the artist, seeing as her circles run in other directions. It is therefore my great pleasure to make this introduction. And while it may be just a smidge scandalous to recommend an artist described as "arousing," "hypnotic" and "extremely seductive," I'll take my chances.

The band is an assemblage of characters, ranging from Julliard grad Lyris Hung, (second violinist and vocalist, did some songwriting herself), to Karen and Don Peris of Innocence Mission fame. Other instruments, such as bassoon and cello, make their way onto a record that crosses genres consistently, from rock to folk, from jazz to almost classical. Full of surprises you'll find quiet, loud, passive, grit, anger-­often in the span of one track. And the beauty is, it works together effortlessly.

Lyrically, the prose-like nature of much of the material is most  interesting. Many tunes require careful attention to catch the drift of what's being said. It;s a little bit of a throw off after hearing so many singer songwriters who tell us almost too much about their personal lives, and may leave you with the feeling that there is something of a smoke screen between you the listener, and her the artist. Perhaps, just maybe, full disclosure in the artist/listener relationship is simply a privilege, not a right. Well, here's a sample of the lyrics from one of the tunes, for instance, entitled "Hip to Hip":

 If I'm mean, then you're proud
 And the music was bad and blaringly loud.
 And the sun wouldn't keep.
 The wind came up strong.
 The paper boats sank.
 The timing was wrong,
 And I thought you looked tired,
 You said I looked pale.
 The music slowed down
 The batteries failed.

 Or is it true that you kissed my lips
 As we lay hip to hip.

So, whatever it is about the record that floats my boat or doesn't, really won't amount to a hill of beans in the end, because on the basis of the fact that shes a superb musician and vocalist, I'd highly recommend you familiarizing yourself with her music. It has wide appeal - my friend the Eagles fan loves it! So go on, surprise yourself ­ give it a listen and see if you don't fall in love all over again. Support our valiant and brave independent artists today - surf over to and find out more!

By Dave Landsel (11/14/98)