Red Masque, The - Feathers For Flesh
Year of Release: 2004
Label: Big Balloon Music
Catalog Number: BBM1102
Total Time: 54:32:00
The Red Masque's third release, Feathers For Flesh ought to have two warnings: One, don't listen to this in the dark. Two, best played in the dark. Well, maybe three: warning, contents may be contagious.
Why the first "warning"? Because like the creepiest, subtlest horror stories - as told by Poe, let's say - this is a creepy horror release that is the most scary in the dark. Not pitch dark - that might just be too much... especially if you've a weak heart. But just dark enough that the shadows shift and move like restless shades. Dark enough that mementos on the hutch become gargoyles, and you feel you've been sucked into the world of Edgar Allen Poe, of Hammer Horror films... of some very dark and mysterious and strangely thrilling place. Angular edges thrust out at you like menacing spirits, throbbing bass pushes you along, allowing you no way to turn back. It's gothic - church organs play deep rich horror tones; sad violins, distorted guitars, wailing voices that cry sweetly like tortured spirits. This is not a bad thing, but if you don't want "nightmares"... best listen to this with the lights on... (This paragraph written while listening to "House of Ash," which opens the CD).
The second warning is because it will just not have the right effect in full light, as light chases away a certain ambiance that is required for the full effect. Which also means... this is not background music... except to some real-time dramatization of the pieces, if such a thing were possible. To get the full effect, you must immerse yourself wholly, give yourself over to the dark journey that The Red Masque wish to take you on. Just remember though, it's just music... you're not really there. (Just turn on the lights to chase away the shadows, the gargoyles and things that haunt the night.)
Things aren't all angular darkness - and while you might want to mention King Crimson, that certain royal shade is far less apparent here than on their debut ep. In fact, I'd say that "Passage" is more reminiscent of the arty, moody, floaty, folk-inflected music psychedelic music of the 60s. That genre that ran parallel to progressive rock. There are gentle guitar, bass, and keyboard passages here. Noodly and dark... I think too of the German psych-prog bands that I've heard a lot of on the Garden of Delights label. But that's only the first part, as "Passage" is more than just a folky-psych piece; as the complexity increases, so does the pace, and we goe off into more eclectic, eccentric territories. Screaming guitar, angular percussion ... King Crimson if the King is Mad King George. these lighter, acoustic, airier passages (no pun) return with "Beggars & Thieves." Here we get mandolin plucking out a medieval melody.
"Scarlet Experiment" is the words of Emily Dickinson as voiced by Lynnette Shelley... and here you will find Shelley right beside your ear, whispering the words... Beside your ear? No, she's inside it... Earlier she speaks/sings her way through "Yellow Are His Opening Eyes" ... performance art... a poetry reading dramatized... a soliloquy... That is the first part of this multi-part piece... more dark angularity ensues, ensnares, consumes.
Who are the folks responsible for this beautiful horror? Vocals and recitation are provided by Shelley... she of a voice flexible enough to get deep and guttural and high and sweet - earthy and ethereal ... sometimes in the same piece. She also plays erhu (a Chinese violin or fiddle with 2 strings), psaltery, and pots, pans, slinky and other objects, the credits say. Kiarash Emami plays guitars, mandolin, keyboards and contributes vocals; Brandon Ross plays bass, acoustic guitar, keyboards and contributes vocals; Vonorn plays drums, percussion, keyboards, theremin, electric guitar, bass guitar, and contributes vocals. Special guests are Damian Boucher on violin on "House Of Ash" and Sue Wolfsong contributes additional vocals to "Scarlet Experiment."
I first played this (some 12 months after its release, sadly) whilst driving about Allentown and Bethlehem, PA during NEARfest weekend. Appropriate, as TRM are a Philadelphia band and both those cities are about an hour-plus out of Philly. And, I'll say here, I think TRM ought to make a NF appearance, perhaps as the Sunday opener... ah, but if this is best heard in the dark... some what higher up in billing, so much later in the day.
Ah, so what do I think. I think this is a beautifully horrific (in a good way) CD that sent and sends chills down my spine and I keep coming back to it in fascination. I have not pecked away entirely at the shell... have not yet slipped into every shadow... there is still much to explore if my psyche can handle it. For all the dark places it leads, there are darker places hinted at... dare you go?
House Of Ash: I: Corridors - II. Judgement - III. The King's Lament, Part 1 - IV. The King's Lament, Part 2 / Passage / Yellow Are His Opening Eyes: I. The Summoning - II. Outscream - III. Vacant / Beggars & Thieves / Scarlet Experiment
Lynnette Shelley - vocals, erhu, psaltery, pots, pans, slinky and other objects
Kiarash Emami electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, keyboards and vocals
Brandon Ross - bass, acoustic guitar, keyboards and vocals
Vonorn - drums, percussion, keyboards, theremin, electric guitar, bass guitar, and vocals
Damian Boucher - violin (1)
Sue Wolfsong - additional vocals (5)
Death Of The Red Masque (ep) (2001)
Victoria And The Haruspex (2002)
Feathers For Flesh (2004)
Fossil Eyes (2008)
Stars Fall On Me (2009)
Genre: Progressive Rock
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