The Deadfly Ensemble – An Instructional Guide For Aspiring Arsonists (2012)

The Front Cover?

I would have to count the days for the last time I saw a really original CD-cover. This one is explicitly original and it takes you back to a whole other era. Which makes it enjoyable, the autograph depicting the name “the Deadfly Ensemble” almost make it feel as if it were written by an older gentleman from another century, carefully constructed with an ink-pen. Making it feel genuine when first spotted in the middle of the letter-like CD-cover. Sometimes I feel like I want to open it, but it’s a carefully disguised illusion. There’s also some kind of arson with some kind of cloud or something above the lettering. Accompanied by the cryptic letters of: “bring the HEAT“. Making it even more mysterious in a way. It’s also a mixed match between the classic autograph and standard fonts. Even though there’s not much going on, it makes me wonder what’s in the letter that could be hidden within it.  The colors do also make a nice match with the rest of the cover and I enjoy myself with the illusion more than anything else.

The Songs?

1. Wild-Eyed Hounds (6:34)

So while being somewhat overwhelmed by the cover itself, I’ll start with the songs right after. First up is the first song, which is called: Wild-Eyed Hounds. Starting out with synchronized riffing in between the guitars and the bass, not making itself heard very well which sets a certain kind of mood to it. After a while, the drums come bouncing in almost sounding like they’re jumping off one another to form some kind of circle around both the melody and the riffing. Like bouncing off one wall and climbing another, which makes itself more noticeable as a kind of background-fuzz when the singer’s voice enters the picture. But even though it sounds like they’re pitted against each other in the background, playfully jumping around on each other – the singer’s sincerity in his voice make a frail attempt at re-uniting them within one great sound-scape. It feels like I’ve entered some kind of forbidden forest, where I observe these wonderful creatures doing what they do best. Like a spiritual trip throughout a murky realm, but at the same time there’s something mysterious going on in the mix.

It almost becomes sinister when the violin enters in the background and form the different passages I’d have to pass through to reach my final goal. It almost sounds like the singer’s moving his voice through a freakishly vaudevillian scenery. When hearing the different melodies clash with each other and build up a tender wall of flies, soaring through the skies that is the landscape of a subliminal sound. Like seeing something you’d actually not see on first glance, then rubbing your eyes and looking again and it’s gone with the wind. This is a pleasurable listening and when I’ve come through more than half of the song, there’s some kind of medley between all the instruments that weren’t together to begin with.

The singer’s somewhat wailing but sincere pitched voice rub his silken pipe in tune with my ears view of the sound-scape, treating it firmly but at the same time being compensated with an utmost barrage of instrumentals following him through with every step that he takes. Whilst he’s even there, even noticeable, picked up by the lower senses. The ending is a treat too, whereas all his energy goes into the squeakiness of his voice, as if somebody tried to squeeze out the final notes because they wanted to hear him so much. An almost shy, but tempting voice of satisfaction. Which tempts the ending so far as to, maybe in a sense, heighten his importance and try to emulate what he’s been doing in the latter parts of the song. Making a rather sad departure into the oblivion of sound, but going out with a bang rather than a nothingness of clustered sounds, feasting on my delicate hearing.

2. Thirsty Girl (4:41)

A more sorrowful, if not mournful song, is the second one named Thirsty Girl. In the introduction to it, the riffs are used in such a step-by-step manner. As if it depicts someone waltzing around or walking up some steps. Then they wallow away like nothing, those little riffs. The violin adds up to the atmosphere and then, like a sucker-punch, the jazz-like drumming comes in with the more flanged riffing (almost gothic sounding). I’d imagine listening to this song while strolling around in the dark streets in the middle of the night. Just as if you’d be running away from a loved one, or someone that had hurt your really much.

When you sit down in apathy and wander around endlessly until you become just a shadow of the former self. Lyrically, the content is astounding and it’s a very playful thing with both words and sound-scape. The innocence of something being taken away, but there still remains a little bit of sanity and innocence still. Deep, deep within the catacombs of the widely gaping soul. As it’s getting sucked dry by the parasites that be. I’d almost go as far as to say that it’s got a pretty folk-nerve to it, and also a contemporary jazzy edge. It’s almost as if dark jazz made friends with folk and had a baby with dark cabaret.

Reminding me of all the great memories I have of that music, but also recalling an important past. The eccentric singer also make good use of his ultimate tool, that he’s been given and I love how it just carelessly siphons my energy. Catches me off guard and surprises me at any given moment, whereas the high-pitched rolling of words from his beautiful tongue. Like two characters meeting at a higher speed than the general music, clashing in between and leaving a bread of thought to feast upon mindlessly through brain-thrust. However, the moral of the story would be both the different dimensions of longing but not being close to, ever. Further in, the voice gets more wicked and grainy as the music gets softer and leans more toward shoving me into a trance-like state. Recanting the wonderful riffs, the seducing melodies and the general drumming, being wonderfully varied. Sometimes it feels like it could’ve been better, but then after a while, the hole gets propped up with everything that’s fine and dandy. I didn’t think you could make so much out of the same, the way they play their instruments with total devotion and change one rhythm to another is simply fascinating.

3. Hammer, Anvil and Stirupps (4:28)

The songs are getting shorter, bit by bit and slowly changing into something else than the one before. A lot of variation later, some songs and a wonderful experience – I’m at song number three. It’s titled: Hammer, Anvil and Stirupps. In a way, it’s a pretty funny title. But the song sounds nothing like funny, or maybe it’s “funny” in the darker meaning of the word. It almost sounds like a horror movie soundtrack the more I delve into it, the clingy feelings I get from it could be a sign of just that. Hitting my nostalgic nerve with a voodoo-doll needle, making me shake up and around like a skeleton on threads.

Also making me want to huddle up in a dark corner of the room and barricade the door with a large portion of pillows. As if there would be something awakening amidst all the frightening background noise. I think the intro is the most scary part of the song, this muddy and aching sound, making it’s way up through the darkness and touching me in a weird sense. It gave me goosebumps. Well, I don’t think the singer’s voice could be any better. It surely turns me into a child again, when you were supposed to go to sleep but didn’t dare because there was always something out there in the room waiting to strike. There’s always something going on in the soundscape.

If it isn’t the galloping and multifaceted baseline that keeps the tempo going up and down, it’s the drums or the flanged lo-fi riff that adds up and make the haunted-house feeling stick to me like glue. Long gone is the more naive and clandestine sound of delicacy, the forthcoming bad weather and autumn feelings settling themselves on a high shelf. I really dig how the baseline sometimes stop for a moment to reconsider if it wants a part of the song, when it a moment later moves along with the tempo and then decides to change back again. The instruments really play a bigger role in this than the singer himself, but he also makes quite an appearance. Sometimes I’d watch over my shoulder just to make sure he wasn’t standing right behind me, whispering these things into my ear.

4. The Early Years of Dr. Lindsay (7:04)

Earlier I said that the songs are getting shorter, and they did, for a short period of time. The fourth song The Early Years of Dr. Lindsay is the longest one yet. It also sounds radically different from the other songs, which is interesting since they were less driven by the acoustic sound than this one is. Which makes this into a ballad, an almost medieval one. The gentle licks of the guitars sweep me around in this setting for longer than I can realize, the singer’s whispering and unfathomable singing sounds both desperate and frail. Tapping on toes throughout the landscape, with some kind of background noise that sets up the pace a notch and complement the largely acoustic parts with a little kick in the butt.

The repetitive sound-scape makes me longing for something exquisite and beyond the normal sound that I’ve heard so far. Or, I wouldn’t say normal, but longing for a sound that isn’t abnormal at least. To a degree, this is fulfilled when a serenade of synths kick in and drive me along with the tempo, finding myself almost bobbing my head back and forth in a sincere range of motion. Which means that I didn’t head-bang, but enjoy the sound in a more sound and appropriate matter given the circumstances of harder synths, clashing drums and arpeggio madness. At this point in the time of the song, it’s a real gamble in between.

Like an old-fashioned kind of show meeting the ultra modernistic cyborg, or at least the reference of it in the 80’s synth-driven concoction of goodness. This is what it would sound like if they’d be right about the 21th century being ultramodern, driving around in flying cars and what not. It’s the precise depiction of what it would sound if it’d clash with the older times of medieval darkness, lending its hand to art rock and taking those genres with them to a reference-point of the 60’s thought of the hyper-modernistic 2000’s. Maybe it’s a subject too hard to write down in these smaller sentences, but I hope you understand what I mean. The build-up to the transgression is understandable, since it left you longing for more, and then suddenly getting it plastered all over your face. Another point of analysis would be that it could’ve been some kind of puppet-show, where the master decides what will happen next. As the dolls pull down into the secrecy of him, he re-launches the show with a more modernistic touch and leaves the public with a jaw dropped to their feet. A little something in between scary, shock, surprise and curiousness.

5. Lizard Tree On Fire (4:12)

Because of the sheer awesomeness so far, I really want to dig into it a little bit more. So here’s the fifth song titled: Lizard Tree On Fire. Imagine yourself swaying back and forth in a window, on the tallest building in either picturesque big city Berlin or Paris. The sad violin is a companion of yours, as it strikes the different strokes with utter passion. That’s what the intro is made up of, a violin, filled by the player’s sincerity and gentle strokes. Forming some kind of bizarre embezzlement between it and the entering singer, which by the way, concocts an awesomely Opera-inspired lullaby. Whilst hearing this and the oddly shaped sound-scape kind of transgressing in between the lower notes of the singer and the higher ones, the violin seem to carry him all the way up to the top.

At times, the noise of a cat screeching reminds me of a dark alley in the 1800s. Somewhere in between that date there comes a rift, the cat exchanges place with a loud noise that almost sounds like some kind of static field of energy. Or an outdrawn and overly distorted riff. So right now, when it happens and up to when it ends, something in me feels reborn again. It sounds like some form of light is making its way up to the surface, and I get to closely monitor it through the sound-waves. Like pouring a glass of light into a stream of water that helps to carry it on it’s way up to where it’s heading. Or down, for that matter.

A rather lo-fi sounding drum beats away as the bass in the background trembles, and as the wonderfully enchanting piano (forgot what it’s called) taps a single note away until the organ-sound make its unprecedented entry into the picture and slowly ends this ravage between light, dark – good and evil. Another approach to it would be a nice night out by the catacombs, walking down in them and going around to observe things as they make different distinct noises which would make you a little bit paranoid. This song surely reeks of paranoia, at least after the more lullaby friendly opening section and middle of it. Not to forget is that it suddenly becomes an instrumental instead of being graced by the singer, maybe he was scared of the sound-scape and made his way around it. Instead of being consumed by it.

6. The Glorious Immolation of the Holy Order of the Sun (6:04)

I’ve assessed, analyzed, done some fine-tuning and everything in between. We’re only halfway there, now it’s time for the sixth song called The Glorious Immolation of the Holy Order of the Sun. I must say that the singer Lucas Lanthier sounds a little bit like our nocturnal friend Anna-Varney Cantodea (Sopor Aeternus) in some sense. In case you wonder why I haven’t mentioned his name yet is because I finally realized it with this song. Which would be a huge compliment since she’s one of my (all-time) favorite alternative singers. Not that I lay too much meaning in the word “alternative” since it’s been bastardized and commercialized, but with that word I’m referring to the real alternative. The alternative that came before, endured and post-poned the misery of commercialization.

Much can be said about that too, but for what I know, the Deadfly Ensemble doesn’t really fit the category of “business” or “commercialization“. Thank god for that. This song also reminds me somewhat of dungeoneering in Diablo II, in some parts of this wicked realm you’d hear something like this while venturing through the endless deserts of that game. I’d consider this one to be the most fitting if there would be any movie made that included darkness, melancholy, sophistication and a non-Hollywoodian bastardization. It’s possibly also both a sound-scape of weirdly sounding but also feelings of grandiose in the same mix, there’s always a great vibe to it. The violin, the fast acoustic riffs and the blending with a dark and deep baseline as the strokes on the violin catch up to speed (not falling far behind) removes the dullness of the sound-scape.

There’s much gray about it, in a melancholic and interestingly gothic way. Yes, as in: managing to purvey emotions of real gothic. The intense variation of the different strokes, textures and structures building up beneath and taking different paths in between, amplify the strengths of the singing, the lyrical content and the harmonic but melancholic melodies intertwining. Although, a tip would be to not listen to this when you’re tired, as it will blur out your judgement piece by piece and put you to sleep as the soothing magical content is perfectly shaped, making you forget any error and enjoying the content throughout. Even though it’s an intellectual trip, it kind of relaxes the tension in my brain when it has to work by listening to pieces and writing down notes. Almost as if they’re trying to tell me: “It’s ok now, you can go to sleep, we’ll do the job for you”. If any review would ever be a self-written one, this song has a vague symbolic value to that claim, and I sure do wish that they would write themselves. But then again, it wouldn’t give me any of the joy I’ve had so far while trying to analyze it. So I’m completely satisfied in having this position, as it puts me into it automatically, since it requires a lot of brain-thrust. Let’s hope I’ll recover some of the energy for the next song, please don’t drain me to the fullest. Good riddance, the Deadfly Ensemble, you’ve actually made me thrust my thinking-lever into overdrive. Bravo!

7. Dog vs. Postman, in B (8:00)

There has to be something to say about the song-titles too, I think they’re really creative and marvelous in their own way. It shows that there have been put a lot of work into the album as a whole and not just specific parts of it. Now I’m at the seventh song on the album, which is titled: Dog vs. Postman, in B. Pretty weird title, but somehow it must be reflected in sheer awesomeness in the song. Let’s give it a listen. A beautifully delayed baseline with guitar-riffing makes up the introductory. I’m thinking a sanatorium or something. A pretty visual picture gets painted by the sheer funkiness of the all-round instruments cheerfully stepping it up a notch and marching on to another tempo and switching in between, maybe blurting out one or two notes in the process – but making it sound wonderfully sound-scape wise.

It almost sounds like some dodgy jazz-tune with a smart layer of free improvisation which is revealed on the tip of the art-rock shell that encases it. A mortifying rhythm reaps through the holes of it, encompassing itself with violins as the roses fall from the nearest bush. Even though I think the snare-drum doesn’t really sound like it has any part in it at all, it gets overshadowed by the careful hits on the cymbal. It’s great how a tune this long can entertain me without having vocals, I didn’t really miss out on them since they arrived shortly after five minutes in, but I normally get bored of instrumentals. In this nocturnal landscape that they’re perforating and grading into their performance is simply an act of sheer ingeniousness. They know their instruments well, they know how to play them, they know how to put on a show.

As the baseline draws into foreign territory, where the singer’s minding his own business until he’s being drilled by the overtly harsh bass. Almost as if he’s shedding his tears from within, making the operetta sounding texture of his singing voice a glamorous adventure. Even though it sounds pretty glamorous, I can’t take my ears off the dark sound-scape that have enveloped throughout his singing. It’s as beautiful, but as painful to hear in its stages of decay. I don’t know if the skips are a part of the song, but it makes my stomach turn inside out. Thrilling me up onto the edges of banality, but at same time embracing the burden that sorrow is and always will be. There’s a fine line between the glamor and the sadness, but somehow (because of my misanthropy) the darkness dissolves me and leaves me in a static position, as the singer’s feelings encompass me to a degree where I almost find myself crying. A puddle forming, picked up in a vial and re-emptied upon me as this grace is noticeable in the later section of the song. A tearjerker to a degree, a hit in the stomach and what not. Excellent piece of art.

8. St. Nick’s Sugar Hill Sanitorium (What Do You Reckon, Julia?) (1:53)

Next song to come up is a song with a long title: St. Nicks’ Sugar Hill Sanitorium (What Do You Reckon, Julia?). Which I would say is a continuation of the seventh song, because it sounds eerie the same as the beginning of the song. But it takes both the sad dimension of the latter part of the seventh song and scrambles it with the first part of it. Being totally instrumental, it adds up to the emotional state that I’m in. A fine-tuned song that strikes the notes of my beating heart and attaches them to an instrument, to make the nerves of the heart play in total synchrony with the song. This also shows off their total dedication to their craftsmanship, and how they in a very fine way manage to place these songs in such an order that it’s impossible to notice the musical encounter throughout. It’s also one of their shorter songs of the album, but it’s such a fine masterpiece, because it springs out like a flower in summertime to show their true color.

It actually affects me in an emotional manner, in the way that Patrick Wolfs shorter song Eulogy from his album Wind In The Wires. The only difference in between is that the Deadfly Ensemble have mastered the art of continuation, whilst Patrick Wolf mastered the art of departure. Because I feel like this is just the beginning of introducing something more, whilst Eulogy is a “goodbye” song that pitches itself against the longer song Land’s End which is much of a total goodbye in eight minutes. So this is actually one of the first continuation songs that I’ve actually thought rubbed my emotional self to a point of me showing my true colors. It’s not the intro or the end of the song that’s most powerful, it’s the intermediate parts in between that makes me full of emotional energy. As I said before, it’s a good placement for the song since it lets off some steam from the seventh song but also prepares me for the latter songs that are about to come. It could also be a continuation of such that the song after this carries on with the tempo, energy, melancholy – but makes it more enduring and introduces new elements into the finely brewed sound-scape. Interesting to say the least, very enjoyable to say the most!

9. Concerning Two Lunatic Vagabonds of the Middle Ages (4:10)

Finally. We’re at the ninth song titled: Concerning Two Lunatic Vagabonds of the Middle Ages. It’s almost done, all my work, reviewing this piece of high art. The song starts off with some wailing, which almost sounds like a pack of dolphins. Right above it, they’ve made some clever rhythmic which shakes the firm ground they’re standing on. Shifting over in perspective of a bizarre subject lyrically and a hysterical voice that shout out all these remarks and portrayals of what is going on. There’s substantially more dark cabaret going on in this song as a whole than in the other songs so far, this one seems to employ all the standard characteristics of a dark cabaret song.

They blend these characteristics with their own touch and make it into a totally different category. If any category at all, since there doesn’t seem to be an edge where it bounces off and stops. It’s not like you’d roll a dice and see what number (e.g. what category) it is. As I told you in the earlier song, I believe that the seventh song could escalate into a continuation. Which I believe is quite apparent when this song starts. You can clearly hear the instruments that were employed in the earlier song, and also almost the same rhythms and harmonics that were there. But there’s something changing within this song that doesn’t make it the same or even like it. Where that song left off, with the calmer sound and almost tranquil condition, I’m left to believe that this song continued in the vein of a harsher, more desperate and tempo-driven slap to the face.

The main difference between this one and the other songs is that it employs a crisper sound-scape without loosing the sound on the instruments in the background, so that I could hear the subliminal instruments coaching themselves around and re-arranging into and upcoming rhythm or melody. It’s a little bit predictable on the edges, but in the middle, nobody knows what’s going to happen. Almost like an orchestrated chaos and an assembled control to take care of it in the end. It’s also more of a renaissance song than a hyper-modernistic one, which leaves me with two songs left that could either be both or be another renaissance one. But it’s not in its original shape or form, much to my surprise it’s a little bit tweaked here and there to leave the goodness in but take the bad parts out. So take them apart and screw it together once again, it’s great so far and I’m enjoying this odd roller-coaster.

10. Commercial Success (3:24)

Speaking of roller-coasters, I’ll get to that in a minute or two. Now I’m at the tenth song on the album and I’m almost finished with what I wanted to accomplish. Hopefully it’ll turn out to be a good review at best. The tenth song is titled: Commercial Success. Since I ended the ninth song with roller-coaster, I’ll explain to you exactly what I mean. It was a mere coincidence, but throughout the intro of this song it almost sounded like an abandoned amusement park of some sort. As if the title of the song is an ironic statement, considering the rough texture of the sound-scape and the happy-house melody going round, round and round. Almost like a roller-coaster. I’d have to think that the commercial success wasn’t that successful, but then again, when money is involve the creativity seem to dampen itself.

Maybe it’s a sucker-punch to the stomach for all these different commercial bands that generate loads of money but don’t really put out any music that’s remotely enjoyable. It could be enjoyable, but it certainly isn’t durable in any way, shape or form. However, it’s one of the more uniquely ambient-sounding creations I’ve heard for a while. Even though there are some remotely acoustic elements in the song, it very much sounds like ambient. That only goes to show that they’ve got a lot of variation on this album and in particular for including this song. Not that the other additions have been less varied, but this one is making it’s way through a whole other genre that haven’t really been touched very much. It’s an instrumental also, for that matter.

It could easily qualify as some sort of acoustic dark ambient or ambient of any sort, maybe they’ve invented a new genre which includes sad clowns, shut down amusement parks and all-round acoustic melancholia with a slice of synth-driven dystopian essence? Or maybe I’m just way out of league for this one. However, it’s quite a viable song that almost hints to the breakbeat and slowcore side of the genre-coin. I’m thinking about the drums and the driven sound-scape that almost wallows in the down-tuned landscape for a while at least, making it feel like an eternity. Not to say that there’s also some hints of drone, which would make me even happier if that would be the case (if they release bonus-songs) but I could look in heaven for that, I believe. Great addition all-in-all and it puts a smile to my face whenever I re-listen to it, since it carries the later realms of the album on its shoulders very well, without being a dismissible case of “filler“.

11. Marvelous Murderess (6:16)

Now, we’re at the last stop of this review, which saddens me a little bit. It’s time for the eleventh song called Marvelous Murderess. This one surely sounds like a renaissance dream, but at the same time nightmare. The sound-waves feature some cackling in the beginning, whereas men and women are verbally discussion something. Here we have our own murder-case, and the gossip that goes around the village. I bet they had a lot to talk about when it came to murders, since it didn’t happen that frequently or apparent for that matter. I think this is a on going murder-case both being discussed and followed up through the song. The discussion, the investigation and the conclusion. I almost get the feeling like they’re categorizing the different assailants, excluding some of them because they’re not that apparent. It’s almost like this claim: “They couldn’t possibly have done it!“, musically. Digging (no pun intended) the multitude of the singer’s voice in this one, it’s like everything falls in place when they’ve chosen this track as the last one. Sealing the deal and trying to make it as multifaceted as possible, excluding anything that isn’t perfection.

Probably one of the songs on this album that have managed to keep me interested in the lyrical content (looking through it regularly) and at the same time keeping up with the different changes in the sound-scape. The further in you get, the more sinister the music seems to be and the more desperate the singer’s voice utters his words. It’s also got one of the most intellectually written lyrical content I’ve heard for a while, which makes it hard to compete with lyrically since Mr. Lanthiers writing is so perfected and also shaped to be like that.

So this concludes my review of this album and I’ve been positively surprised by the amount of work that must’ve gotten into this piece of art. I’d like to call it art because it surely resembles it. Even though I may have been off on some points, I think I had some good analysis to this complex piece. They’ve managed to fit in so many emotions into this and they’ve managed to actually keep the music alive, the lyrical content excellent and everything else top notch. Everyone involved with this have outdone themselves and I’d like to say that his is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. It absolutely smacks many other albums away from the first place and crowns itself. I’ll be listening to this album over and over again and I hope that you will too. Go and buy it, you will not be disappointed. There are many more surprises that you’ll receive with the CD that I haven’t covered, because I don’t want to give anything else away that might come as a surprise. But it’s been worked on for a long time, it seems. Outstanding and brilliant are the two words that come to mind.

My final judgement: 5/5

Buy and download digitally, soon up for pre-ordering, physical copy out September 11th: http://www.projekt.com/projekt/product.asp?sku=PRO00281

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4 thoughts on “The Deadfly Ensemble – An Instructional Guide For Aspiring Arsonists (2012)

  1. Pingback: Interview with the Deadfly Ensemble! | INVISIBLE GUY
  2. Pingback: The best releases of the year 2012! (Part I) | INVISIBLE GUY

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