Indie-film connoisseurs will remember Eszter Balint as John Lurie's coolly bored Hungarian cousin in Jim Jarmusch's 1984 debut feature film, Stranger Than Paradise. In that film, Balint's character only got stirred up about one thing: her passion for the music of Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who she described as her "main man."
Over the last two decades, Balint has rarely turned up on screen, but after many personal detours, she's slowly established herself as one of the smartest, most original singer-songwriters on the underground music scene. And her swampy cabaret synthesis suggests that the influence of Hawkins went beyond the confines of her first celluloid appearance.
The reason Balint isn't better known is that she doesn't fit into any genre or audience demographic. Dark, ambient ruminations
| like "Here We Are" and "This Lie" suggest Tom Waits' fractured rootsiness mixed with the dulcet vocals of Sam Phillips. A bit too adult for indie-rockers, and a bit too exotic for the adult-alternative crowd, she demands repeated listenings.
This followup to Balint's 2000 debut, Flicker, reflects the singer's heightened confidence and willingness to leave the raw sound of her band unadorned. When she adds production touches, such as her own violin on the angry "Your God" ("Let's worship in unison/some cretin deity") and glockenspiel on "No One," they only add to the sense of emotional urgency.
She has a peculiar, but poetically effective approach to her imagery: engaging in conversations with moths, wanting to pull out your brains to catch you lying, and depicting the moon as a plump cheater. Balint's artistry may be too quirky and specific to ever reach more than a devoted cult, but Mud makes it clear that she's a major talent.