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Jan Dukes De Grey - Mice And Rats In The Loft CD (album) cover

MICE AND RATS IN THE LOFT

Jan Dukes De Grey

 

Prog Folk

4.15 | 158 ratings

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VanVanVan
Prog Reviewer
5 stars I won't lie, I discovered this album by clicking on the prog folk link and reading down the "best of" list until I got to something I didn't have yet. I'd never heard of Jan Dukes de Grey before that, but there's definitely a reason that "Mice and Rats in the Loft" appears on that list, because this is one of the most consistently excellent, bizarrely brilliant albums to be found anywhere out there. With reference points ranging from Jethro Tull to Magma, this is a truly excellent album and certainly one that's not to be missed.

The album begins with "Sun Symphonica," a massive 19 minute track which itself begins with a fantastic folky theme accompanied by some eccentric vocals and a perhaps surprisingly groovy bass part. It's a very cheery motif, but the smiling veneer shows some cracks with a jangly, atonal guitar part, and it isn't long before the track loses it completely. Scarcely two minutes pass before the sunny (no pun intended) disposition of "Sun Symphonica" gives way to a frenetic, dark, acid-folk freak-out that almost reminds the listener of Magma. Folky undertones continue to show through, however, especially during an extremely intense acoustic guitar solo that sounds like it may have destroyed the guitar in the process. Another drastic style change follows, with a pastoral, Tull-ish vocal theme appearing briefly before another acid-drenched instrumental section. It's at this point (around the six minute mark) that symphonic elements begin to appear as well, with some awesome string parts that really add to the sound. Vocals don't reappear until about 9 minutes in, but when they do, they're fraught with enough Comus-esque dread to make the listener forget how cheerily the song began. The lyrics, too, are nothing short of chilling, with obscure descriptions of blood running and all sorts of other arcane topics. The pseudo-zeuhl sound returns after this, and if the vocals were somewhat droning before they positively turn into wails in the track's final third. The track ends with what can only be described as a rhythmic, psychedelic freak out, with all kinds of instruments and sounds layering on top of one another over a repetitive bass groove. "Sun Symphonica" is truly one of the overlooked epics from the early days of progressive rock, and boy is it a killer one.

"Call of The Wild" begins with significantly less insanity, making use of a very Tull-esque (Tull-ish? Tullian?) sound as well as some excellent vocal harmonies to craft a folky soundscape that ends up being quite pretty. Fret not, however, that the track will be too vanilla next to "Sun Symphonica," however, as the band includes multiple intervals of frenetic chanting and of course a variety of insane guitar solos that range from standard, acoustic folky fare to darkly bleak walls of sound. In fact, a good portion of the middle of the track features an instrumental section that sounds like it was performed on a single guitar, and it's impressive how much sound the band is able to wrench from one (or at most two) instruments playing unaccompanied. Like the first track, however, it's the last few minutes that really shine if you're looking for psychedelic freak-outs: darkly frenetic guitar strumming leads the way, but all kinds of instruments pop up in this ending section. The final minute even features some guitar playing that actually sounds surprisingly similar to some of the playing that would come to exist in Opeth's quieter moments (though, given the title of My Arms, Your Hearse it may not be too great a stretch to imagine that Mikael Akerfeldt has heard this album). "Call of the Wild" may not be the masterful epic that "Sun Symphonica" was, but it's still a killer acid-folk trip.

The title track that concludes the album is by far the darkest and weirdest. Beginning with a high pitched siren noise but quickly delving into a weirdly rhythmic groove, "Mice In The Raft" contains some of the most ominous vocals this side of First Utterance and one of the weirdest instrumental sections this side of Amon Düül II. The lyrics as well are excellent, with dark and creepy imagery used to great effect and put together subtly enough that it doesn't sound corny. "Mice And Rats In The Loft" is by far the most simply constructed song on the album (though it's still the farthest thing from straightforward), but it's probably also the most visceral and intense track of the three on the album.

If there is one warning to be issued about this album, it's that you shouldn't let the opening strains of the album fool you, because if you go into it expecting cheer and frivolity you will be bitterly disappointed (and probably slightly terrified). "Mice And Rats In the Loft" is an excellently weird, weirdly excellent masterpiece of an album, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who can't get enough of Comus or wants to hear what Jethro Tull would sound like if they dropped acid and jammed with Christian Vander.

5/5

VanVanVan | 5/5 |

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