Thursday, December 21, 2006

REVIEW: the Deadfly Ensemble- An Entire Wardrobe of Doubt and Uncertainty

Much as I like a good Current 93 record, I don't have the expendable income to keep up with all the consumables Current 93 produces. The last record I bought was the "Sleep Has its House" album on double LP. It embodied most of what I like about David Tibet's work with Current 93; most specifically, the melancholic minstrel-esque balladeering. I love to break out "Dog's Blood Order" every once in a while, too; but for noisier atmospherics, I generally reach for other records. I must admit ignorance about David Tibet's most recent work, and so the prediction I'm about to make might be quite off. I'm guessing that since he's been in San Francisco and started collaborating with the likes of Ben Chassny and Om, he's eschewed the former and opted for devoting more of his creative output of the last 5 years to the latter. Shame, really, because he's quite good at the former.

But that little aside leads me to my real object here: the Deadfly Ensemble's album. DE frontman Lucas Lanthier has already proven himself to be a renaissance man of sorts; every album of his other band Cinema Strange comes well equipped with writings, videos, and artwork courtesy of Mr Lanthier himself. And quality stuff to boot! That said, "An Entire Wardrobe of Doubt and Uncertainty" is no different. Musically, however, where the aptly named Cinema Strange (Lanthier's other outlet) covers a very theatrical deathrock terrain, like a well developed Christian Death concept album, the Deadfly Ensemble is much more understated. There's still more than a touch of the cabaret in the Deadfly Ensemble, but acoustic guitars, bass, and cello courtesy of the very capable duo of James Powell and Marzia Rangel replace Cinema's trembling guitars and edgy instrumentation. In the end, Lanthier and the Deadfly Ensemble might very well be the heirs to the goth-minstrel tradition inhabited by the likes of Tibet and down to his apocalyptic folk co-horts. Though it's important to note, where folks like Current 93 will often appeal to myth, legend, and a tacit paganism as a source of inspiration, which I have to admit, I often find a little gratuitous and tiring, Deadfly Ensemble count themselves amongst a lineage of Weimar-era nightlife, and even vaudevillian jazz performers. The Cab Calloway track they contributed to Strobelight Records' "New Dark Ages" volume 4 compilation is a good indication, and does a good job of summoning the unselfconscious spirit, if not the sound, of the infamous hi-de-ho man himself. "An Entire Wardrobe..." is Deadfly's debut album, with more recordings already in progress and promises of additional musicians and more experimentation, which is doubtlessly promising. In being able to tap the energy of those aforementioned jazz and theatrical greats, like any good musical heirs, the Deadfly Ensemble might very well prove to transcend that austere goth tradition entirely, by injecting it with a restless mirth and playfulness it sorely needs.

Deadfly Ensemble webpage
Deadfly Ensemble on myspace
Trisol Records