Reviewed by Robin Hamlyn.
On paper, a collaboration between The Hare and the Moon and Kentin Jivek is a beguiling prospect. While both artists have a long history of exploring what might loosely be termed “ambient and/
What emerges is a fascinating, disturbing, haunted fairground of an album, where the attractions range from the seemingly benign to the darkly subversive. “The Haunted Cabaret” opens the show with a jaunty pipe organ solo, accompanied by exclamations in German (uttered by the multi-lingual Jisek), evoking the back alleys of Berlin, and more specifically Bruno S.’s accordion-accom
“Gevaudan” opens with a Ligeti-like cloud of moaning, unquiet voices, before Jisek’s rasping tones, this time in his native French, emerge from some unclean sepulcher. The musical texture now punctuated by tambourine hits (or is that the sound of the damned rattling their chains?), the voice, quite horrifyingly, becomes a bestial roar that is quickly enveloped by the rising tonal wash. As the song slouches towards silence, the sonority is reminiscent of Popol Vuh’s accompaniment to the opening credits of Herzog’s Nosferatu, and evokes a similar, and yet even more intense atmosphere of tenebrous gloom.
“Godhead” appears to elevate us immediately, and we emerge from the stygian depths on the wings of a sweet, even sentimental, string melody. After less than a minute, however, hissing whispers attack the stereo image, hard-panned and sibilant. And as the string orchestra is bruised by waves of dissonance, Jivek emerges once more, this time delivering, in English, a full-blooded croon on the nature of divinity. If you can imagine Nick Cave being stirred in with Stuart Staples of Tindersticks, with a little bit of Scott Walker on the side, you’ll be somewhere close, but there is a frankly demented quality to Jivek’s delivery that chills the blood. When mixed with Grey Malkin’s cathedral-like sonic textures, what emerges is once more imbued with a strange, ceremonial quality.
“Petite Mort” opens in a similarly serene fashion to that of “Godhead”, with a Faure-like string melody, delicately punctuated by silvery percussion. Jivek’s quietly febrile monologue finds a less extreme counterpoint in Grey Malkin’s exquisitely layered aural backcloth, ending the piece on a note of relative peace. “Das Narren Schiff”, is rendered in French, and Jivek’s performance here is comparatively restrained. Almost subliminally, though, voices alternately demonic and mellifluous trouble our brains, as Grey Malkin’s ingenious aural fabric — ranging from sitar-like drones to clouds of dense percussion — shrouds the landscape. Once more, the ghost of Popol Vuh haunts the speakers while the sound of a ticking clock creates an uncanny tension. The album’s final track, “Black Beard” consists of a relatively serene Jivek narrating the story of a pirate, accompanied, initially, by the album’s most minimal musical backdrop. As the piece reaches its climax, however, Grey Malkin’s ambient textures engulf the listener, leading her solemnly to a place of the most intense and corrupting beauty.
This is an album to get to know slowly, over a glass or two of blood-red wine. There’s just no point in trying to get to the bottom of it. It’s a masterpiece to which you simply have to yield.
Grab your copy from Reverb Worship while/when you can. The first print run has sold out, but there is another on the way.