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Enemy Mine

[whitespace] Dana and Karen Kletter
Sibling Affection: Sisters Dana and Karen Kletter get along just fine on 'Dear Enemy.'

Twins' melancholy vision of sisterhood

By Nicky Baxter

DANA AND KAREN KLETTERS' music doesn't detonate like a nuclear explosion; rather, it implodes. Dear Enemy (Hannibal) is the offspring of two nimble minds, impassioned and committed to their craft but just a bit too doleful. The songs flow like melancholy rivers; strings weep; the piano work is almost baroque. The Kletters are identical twins, and Dear Enemy reflects a disturbing uniformity of musical vision. The sisters' musical portraits are inhabited by tragic figures wreathed in a hazy kind of emotional stupor; a feeling of loss suffuses the tunes. "We Died in August," whose wintry gloom provides the album's sonic blueprint, showcases the sisters' tightly woven harmonies. Karen's poetic verses center on an emotionally exhausted woman who "died every day," evoking a latter-day Eleanor Rigby.

The album's title refers to the love/hate relationship that sometimes characterizes the lives of siblings, a relationship all the more extreme for twins. Several numbers are semi-tragic portraits of family life and sisterhood. In "Sister Song," they sing, "Late again, I'm sorry I missed her / Time sure flies when you ... hate your sister / She's never really embraced me, and I've never kissed her / Affection seems bland when you hate your sister." In the end, they cannot live without one another--and each knows it. All this complexity is wrapped in a tuneful musical package that, though it doesn't make you forget the song's scarifying candor, does take away some of the sting. Like most of the songs, "Sister Song" is taken at a somber pace. Overlapping piano and undulating tenor banjo create shimmering layers of sound--the effect is almost hypnotic.

Mildly more uptempo is "Meteor Mom," with a lilting melody that is greatly enhanced by a comely fiddle and piano arrangement. Interestingly, the soaring violin solo is reminiscent of the glory days of the '60s hippy aggregate It's a Beautiful Day. Lightly clicking drumsticks promote the song's sardonic feel. The lyrics' attention to detail is notable; the picture painted here is one of a perfect mother/daughter relationship ("What good girls we were / What good girls we are / From me to you, Mom"). It's a fairy tale, but you find yourself longing for the Kletters' never-never land.

The central problem with Dear Enemy is the sameness of mood; all the tunes are slow to midtempo. With the exception of the chamber-jazzed "Your Mother Wants to Know," there's not much going on in terms of musical dynamics. Unlike the melancholic but ineffably exquisite music of the late Nick Drake (with whom producer Joe Boyd once worked), Dear Enemy suffers from the kind of depressing vibe that never lifts. Ultimately, this disc's a downer.

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From the April 30-May 6, 1998 issue of Metro.

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