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About the Author
Currently residing in New York, the nocturnal [web] designer known as marZstar is inspired by electronic music, high fashion, digital media and technology, culinary arts, and all things aesthetic. She also enjoys grooming, purring, cosmology, and entomology. She dreams of travelling the globe in search of the perfect... everything, and would like to write about it along the way.
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Ill | Mistress McCutchan

   

   

   

   


In Rotation, September 2006
marZstar
If Thousands – Lullaby
Track Listing: A Beautiful Night Sky, The Daylight And The Sun, To Shine On Him One Last Time, He Had The Smell Of Wyoming Sagebrush, And The Scent Of The Trees, From The Snowy Range, Our Lives Will Never Be The Same, We Miss Matt Terribly, We Think Of Him All The Time. We Miss Matt Terribly.
Ok, I admit it: I had never heard of If Thousands before, though the second I saw the little red warning sticker, (the exact label you see on pharmaceutical bottles of downers,) that reads,“May Cause Drowsiness – Use Care When Operating A Car Or Dangerous Machinery,” I just had to see what was inside... and when I opened the jewel case and saw the statement, more like instructions, printed on the liner notes,“Please listen to this recording at as low a volume as possible to induce & aid in slumber.” I was reeled in.
Usually, like a little kid, I hate going to bed, but that night I couldn’t wait! I love to listen to music when I sleep, and I do every night, and I don’t mean just when I am falling asleep, either. I mean while I sleep. Music gets into you subconsciously, creates the soundtrack to your dreams. Also, like they say about Mozart, music makes you smarter, unless it’s bad. So once I read this I got both excited to have a new sleep adventure, and nervous, because usually“sleep” albums keep me awake, and who wants to be kept awake or stupefied in their sleep? I also felt nervous because oftentimes with expectation comes disappointment, but in the case of If Thousands’ 2003 album Lullaby, I was not disappointed at all. On the contrary, the excitement grew after I listened.
To clarify: Yes, I did listen while falling asleep, and let it play while I sleep, but in order to give a proper review, I did listen to this during waking life too, and even at a little higher volume (ok, a lot louder) than the suggested “as low as possible.” In fact, the louder I listened to Lullaby, the more I fell in love and the louder I wanted to crank it.
The music is full of subtle details of tone and layers of waves, like a painting that from afar looks like a solid color but up close reveals the millions of rainbow colored, deliberately placed brush strokes. From afar, a lesser of a music snob might pass this off as just another drone that anyone could replicate with enough effects and reverb, but closer listening reveals what is really going on, and this is not the case.
Lullaby is meant for sleeping but it’s not quiet; on the contrary, it’s really loud, or rather, it’s an hour of white-noisey-drone, with nearly no lyrics, save for a line repeated during “We Miss Matt Terribly” and the songs blend into each other. but like my other favorite sleep albums, (Coil, Sonic Youth, Sigur Ros, Brian Eno, My Bloody Valentine, Robert Rich, Aphex Twin, Flying Saucer Attack, you get the point,) that’s exactly how I like it.
Makes sense, too, for with a little research I found that this album was recorded in one live take by two skilled musicians who were playing instruments unfamiliar to them. To me, that’s what makes the album success and worthy of the title ‘experimental’ in every sense. This is a lush wash of experimentation backed with skilled players. Feeds the subconscious and conscious mind... Great for those who, like me, like quiet but hate silence... Is it time for bed yet?
For more information, check out ifthousands.com
Legendary Pink Dots – Your Children Placate You From Premature Graves
Track Listing: Count On Me, No Matter What You Do, Stigmata (Part 4), Feathers At Dawn, Please Don’t Get Me Wrong, Peace Of Mind, The Island Of Our Dreams, Bad Hair, The Made Man’s Manifesto, A Silver Thread, Your Number Is Up.
Again, I will begin with an admission: I am a fan. So, I am probably a bit biased and more likely to like this album based on who made it than the actually quality of the music, but I promise to try. At first I thought this would be the easiest album to review, because I do love the Legendary Pink Dots so much, but I’ve since discovered that being a fan makes it more a challenge to critique, and LPD’s 25th anniversary album is nothing short of great. I like it more and more with every listen, even though I can never remember the title.
Out of the eleven tracks, I’d say that #9, “The Made Man’s Manifesto”, is the one that gets into my head and stays more than the others, or at least the melody and lyrics at the beginning of the song. Funny because along with being the song I like best, at just about seven-and-a-half minutes long, it’s also the one that I like least, at least in part. After 3 minutes have past, it becomes the song that delves the most into freeform “noodling” or “jamming” in a way that is reminiscent of the earlier albums of, (dare I say it?), another psychedelic pink-titled group, Pink Floyd. Still, the first part of the song is nothing of the sort. Minimal, electronic, and poetic, the first part reminds me of quintessential LPDs; the kind of synthy sound and kaSpel-ian vocalisms that I would play for someone who has never heard LPD and wants to know what they sound like.
At exactly three minutes into it though, I sometimes skip to another track, perhaps it’s the echoey pedal guitar noodling and lack of vocals along with a tone that reminds me of horn, and I just don’t like horns... it’s not bad, just not what I want when I want me some Pink Dots. Still, “Please Don’t Get Me Wrong”, (which happens to be the name of track 5,) the album is utterly amazing! Overall, I’d say it’s great enough to start with even if you’ve never heard of the Legendary Pink Dots before, (and if you haven’t, shame on you!) Just go get it. It’s education. It’s history. Hell – It’s Legendary. It’s not worthy of my dissection.
Unlike many artists who string together a bunch of miscellaneous songs that could go in any order, this Legendary Pink Dots album as a whole is a work of art. It has a flow; the kind of flow that only the members of the Dots create, and they do it with such finesse. The first song begins the same way that the last one ends. It is like a soundtrack to a movie that does not exist, yet we all have seen. Like this review, it’s circular. It’s beautiful and amazing poetic and is destined to remain on repeat for years to come and I am already feeling guilty for talking smack. dissection.
Actually, come to think of it,“Your Children Placate You From Premature Graves” makes a good sleep album, too. Well, if you’re into that sorta thing, but this is Morbid Outlook afterall... so I imagine the chances are likely you’ll agree.
For more information, check out brainwashed.com/lpd/
The Barbarellatones – Invasion Of The Surf Zombies
Track Listing: Monster Surf Party, Invasion Of The Surf Zombies, I Had Sex With A C.H.U.D., The Return Of Mothra, Zombie Drag Queen, Tranni Troglodite, Jaws!, White Surf Trash, Space Kitty, When Marionettes Kill, Sex Android, Wicked Wahine, Bat Queen, Jaguar Woman, Night Of The Surfing Dead, Kentucky Fried Drag Queen, Preying Mantis, Hellhound, Gothabilly Gulch.
Picture this: I was at my day job, just like any other day, geekily sitting at my desk in front of my computer, minding my own business, and just like all of my coworkers, completely isolated in the mini universe that is created with living under headphones. It only took about ten seconds, the moment after The Barbarellatones’ album began, to burst that bubble of isolation. I was in tears, of laughter, and bobbing my head and bouncing in my office chair, and of course I created quite a little spectacle. Suddenly Instant Messages are popping up onto my screen, “What is so funny?”, “ARE YOU OK?!”
“*LOL*” I responded,“you HAVE to hear this!!” I frantically typed back in between wiping the tears from my eyes, (carefully, I must add, so as not to mess my black liquid eyeliner.)
And one by one a wave of laughter rippled through the stale office setting, and it happened on more than one occasion. Though of course I couldn’t share it with everyone, for lyrics such as,“I hope she don’t get hungry and decide to eat my organ while she gives me head,” are not exactly what I would call work-safe. I can say that the couple of work-buddies I did grace with a listen laughed-out-loud too, which both punctuates the worthiness of this album and, knowing they could laugh with me and not at me, makes me feel better about my coworkers. (at least I think they were laughing with me . . .)
Robbie Quine is the one man responsible for the creation of this 2005 album, though there are credits to other musicians such as Porno For Pyros’ guitarist Peter Distefano. He describes it as, “Packaged in a 5" environmentally-friendly cardboard sleeve, Invasion of the Surf Zombies is a collection of 19 Horror-Rock, Surfabilly and Gothabilly songs that will have you crapping in your diaper. Perfect for Halloween parties or late night sex in the graveyard trips. These are my favorite surf songs from my bands ‘Sex With Lurch’, ‘The Barbarellatones’ and ‘Prancing Ponies’. I have been working on this cd in the Lab for the past nine years, mostly in the middle of the night. I drank a hell of a lot of blood to capture the artistic essence of this project. So listen, children, if you dare...”
All in all, I can’t say this is the most ingenious album ever, though the lyrics are rather clever and catchy, nor is it the most musically complex, though it’s not trying to be. It’s not inventing anything new with its basic surfpoprock rhythms, synth organs and b-horror cult movie lyrics, but what is there is well done. I would hope so after nine years in the making.
Also, while DJing at Contempt in NYC, I played“Bat Queen,” a cover of the original Batman TV theme; at only one minute long, I know I wasn’t the only one sad the track wasn’t longer. Overall, this album is an amusing and gay ole fun time and I think that is all it is trying to be. I mean come now, in his interview, Quine mentions crapping in your diaper and drinking blood, so he can’t be serious (or can he?!) If this is what you want to hear, it’s damn great! So I’d call it a success.
For more information, check out barbarellatones.com
Nox Arcana – Carnival of Lost Souls
Track Listing: Ghosts of the Midway, After Hours, Harlequin’s Lament, Calliope, Madame Endora, Nightmare Parade, Shadows Fall, Hall of Mirrors, Spellbound, Cries in the Night, Soul Stealer, Haunted Carousel, Theatre of Sorrows, Living Dolls, Lost in the Darkness, Snake Charmer, Freaks, Circus Diabolique, Pandora’s Music Box, The Devil’s Daggers, Storm.
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the circus of the strange, the sideshow of the sinister and the theatre of the bizarre... Cast your eyes upon cruel oddities of nature and behold monstrous creatures from the depths of the abyss. Hear the dark wisdom of gypsy soothsayers as they unveil things yet to come, and marvel with awe and dismay at unbelievable death-defying acts that teeter on the very brink of doom. Leave the mundane world behind, for those who visit this festival of phantasms are never the same again. Nox Arcana invites you to immerse yourself in an eerie soundscape that offers 21 tracks of dark orchestrations, haunting melodies, and chilling voices and sound effects... Step this way... there is no turning back!”
These are the lyrics recited in the first track; while I did get a bit nervous upon hearing this, that the album would be too cheesy to stomach, I was relieved to discover that this is in fact a very appropriate introduction to what turns out to be a really great album. With pen in hand, I swayed my head in childlike anticipation and as track two progressed, I found myself writing, “OOOooh! Neat creepy, spooky dissonant broken toy piano and music box circus music complete with ghostly whispering!”
Yes, I do have a weakness, (you have a weakness, we all have a weakness,) for certain kinds of theatrical cheesy music, for certain themes, tones, and instruments. Granted, it changes and evolves in time depending on my mood or the weather or planets or whatnot, but music boxes and broken toy pianos always get me. So do dreamy ethereal female voices, static crunches of old vinyl records, church pipe organs, harpsichords, and shrill resonant metallic bells, and this album has it all. It even has evil clowns, porcelain dolls and mysterious giggles, which authentically creep me out, so I am not going to address those. They do add to the effectiveness of the experience, though.
Released on 6.6.6, Nox Arcana’s fifth theme album is a quality invisible soundtrack that no one with any love of Halloween or dark fantasy whatsoever should be without. I can imagine wandering through an amusement park maze, a carnival after hours, or haunted house, or I can see this as the opening to a modern horror movie or even a documentary on the supernatural wonders of the world. Think Tim Burton meets Jim Henson, with a touch of Dario Argento.
Like i said, I think it’s rather challenging to create a theme album and not sound cheesy but somehow these two professional music composers, Joseph Vargo and William Piotrowski, managed it. The orchestration is lushly layered and, for the most part, tasteful. The recording and mastering is modern and clean, and with the variety of samples present, it obviously utilizes modern digital recording studio technology. Even the illustrations of the album art, done by monolithgraphics.com, are of professional caliber and add to the well packaged experience of the Carnival of Lost Souls as an entire work of art.
In addition, if your imagination is not enough, you can visit their website and read a background story to several of “characters” that make up the mythical landscape painted within this album. Oh, and for the record, after the intro there are no lyrics, well at least not until the finale where you hear the ringleader one last time state, “Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to direct your attention to center stage where you will bear witness to terrifying sights that will haunt you till the day you die. Behold the Circus Diabolique, and let the nightmare begin...” Well ok, maybe a teensy bit more of this, but I don’t want to ruin all the surprises!
My one criticism: at the very end of the final track they sneak in a cock-rock-n-roll-y piece with a male vocalist singing that I can totally do without. Actually I strongly wish it weren’t there at all, for it makes me cringe and doesn’t fit at all with the first 56 minutes. Still, very fun and creative, this album is a definite keeper that makes me want to hear, or rather experience, the other Nox Arcana albums. So... Is it Halloween yet? And when is the circus coming into town?
For more information, check out noxarcana.com