marissaBlack becomes Marissa Nadler. It suits her pale complexion and matches the atmosphere of her songs.

On stage, however she is not dark and gloomy but polite and unpretentious. Her much publicised stage fright is not evident. It helps that she is accompanied by cellist Janel Leppin who lends gravitas to the tunes.

This being a free concert at a beachside bar/club, there’s always a chance that you get an audience of sightseers rather than true fans but the small but appreciative crowd were on Marissa’s side from the outset.

Of the thirteen songs she played in a one hour set, only three were from her earlier records; the rest were all from her latest album, July. This song-cycle covers a year in her life, from one July to the next, and centre on an acrimonious break up.

Bleak settings in cheap motels and lost highways add to the forlorn mood. The bitterness and anger is controlled and directed towards moving on rather than wallowing in self pity.

July was produced by Randall Dunn whose speciality has been more in Black Metal,than fragile folk. He has worked with drone-based acts like Earth and Sunn 0))). What seems like an unusual choice actually makes a lot of sense. There’s a quiet power to Nadler’s music and his production emphasises the intensity which is also apparent in her live performance.

Previous records have focused a lot on sadness and death but, now in her thirties, her new songs are more personal and demonstrate a greater maturity and confidence. In other words they are so much more than simply reworkings of Edgar Allan Poe gothic stories.

She has recently signed to Sacred Bones Records where label mates include David Lynch, Zola Jesus and Jim Jarmusch; a spiritual home if ever there was one.

Black is her natural color and sadness is a constant but her songs are proof that strength comes from facing dark nights of the soul without fear.