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Long Live Death - To Do More Than God . To Die CD (album) cover


Long Live Death


Prog Folk

3.50 | 2 ratings

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3 stars Here's a band that has a frenetic sort of indie manner and off-kilter vocals that remind me a lot of the middle period for Cerberus Shoal, along with a compositional style akin to a slightly less talented A Silver Mt. Zion but with more percussion and an accordion, a communal approach to performing not unlike Feathers or the Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree, and a tendency toward seemingly random indie drone (plus whatever sound that is that a theremin makes) which puts them in the same league as the likes of Current 93, Espers and the various permutations of MV & EE.

For the most part it works, but I have to say that this is not a band that newbies are likely to instantly connect with. In fact, it took me several months of listening to their second album before I even ventured out to find the first one, and once again the appeal came slowly and not without the occasional annoyance.

I don't know anything about this band really, except that they originated in the Baltimore, Maryland area of the U.S., appear to have been somewhat cult-like in their makeup, and are almost definitely not around anymore. Their website has been squatted on by some Oriental click-ad agency, there's no evidence of any recording, videos, touring or even updates to their mySpace site since around 2006, and other than cellist Anna Messing showing up as guest vocalist on a Frenemies album none of them seem to have done anything notable in music since the release of their second CD in 2005.

This album (EP really, as there are only six songs with a runtime of barely twenty-five minutes) was first recorded and released independently in 1999. I don't think that version is likely to be in very broad circulation today. The group must have secured a record deal with Secret Eye Records since that label issued their second album and re-released this one, both around 2005. I bought the second CD a while ago but couldn't find either the 1999 or reissue of this one for a reasonable price so I ended up streaming it from their mostly dormant MySpace site.

Like I said the music is a curious blend of post-rock in the Constellation Records vein and a sort of improvisational, freak-folky indie form of the sort that tends to trace back to mildly pretentious art students with only moderate ambition and no hurry to grow up or otherwise put together a stable life of any kind. On the one hand I'm a little jealous but at the same time I don't really miss my own halcyon yet poverty-drenched twenties and am jaded enough to figure they finally got tired of the bohemian lifestyle too.

The band probably made a poor choice with "There is No Death" as the introductory opening song (you only have one chance to make a good first impression, or so my parents always told me back in the day). The hollow yet crisp percussion is seductive and Messing has a creepy level of talent on her eerie cello, but the ad nausea repetition of the lyrics "there is no death" gets tedious and really annoying after a while, and to be honest when I first heard it I blew off listening to the rest of the CD for a couple weeks before deciding to give them another try.

It's a bit difficult to keep track of who is making what sound with this music, as the band employs a few atypical instruments for what is basically freeform freak-folk. A melodica (key flute) which I don't believe I've seen since eighties New Wave died out blends in with the accordion to make the two a bit tough to distinguish from each other. James Sarssgaurd, the same guy who plays melodica is also credited with a musical saw. I've heard these before and know that they can do a pretty good job of parroting flatter string sounds such as those made by cellos, and even get into a sort of harmonic tone that could be mistaken for a theremin, both of which are also used here. The theremin gets a bit overused at times in my opinion, and particularly on the otherwise peacefully pleasant "Bending Time". Or maybe that's the saw, hard to tell. Either way it's a bit much.

"Bits and Bits" has a sort of acoustic acid-folk tone to it that makes me think these guys spent some time spinning the Incredible String Band's 'Wee Tam' and 'The Big Huge' with the same sort of lazy, bard-like vocals and easy-going rhythm offset by loose string forays. A beautiful song and a direction I kind of wish they had explored a little more fully on the rest of this and on their second release.

The CD/EP closes with the lengthy "Patience Through All Worlds" which also calls to mind ISB a bit, specifically that band's tendency to close an album with a long, rambling and thematically disjointed story-song clearly meant to be best understood under a cloud of hazy smoke while sitting in a remote corner of an open-air park with a close friend or maybe your pet cat. Tough to get the full effect in most other settings, but I'm heartened to hear bands are still making this sort of music well into the 21st century.

I really should rate this for collectors only, but it's been quite a while since a band turned me off initially but then brought me around to appreciate their music after a while. Slow- burners get harder to come by as time goes on so another star (three out of five) to the band for managing to pull that off. Well recommended to most prog folk fans and to anyone else who favors music outside the more rigidly-defined metal, traditional prog or neo-prog molds.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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