Thursday, October 7, 2010
Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows - Dead Lover's Sarabande (Face Two) (1999)
Sopor Aeternus is the name under which German transsexual Anna Varney records, and the Ensemble of Shadows are the ghostly spirits that provide her with her inspiration. Yes sir, top 40 this ain't.. "Dead Lover's Sarabande" was released in two parts, the second being rather superior in my view. Both are worthy of notice if you're into this sort of thing though.
What is this sort of thing, you ask? Well, it's best decribed as very dark chamber music with vocals. The instrumentation consists of cellos, violins, trombones, french horns, vibraphone and a number of other orchestral instruments with only the barest smatterings of acoustic guitar, but played in a classical fashion. The style is that of the most mournful of classical requiems, and Varney's vocals croak along in German, rarely varying from a near sob (except for the occasional nightmarish shriek.)
This is melodrama at a level you're unlikely to encounter anywhere else, and at times the overwrought emotion approaches the comical, but most of the time it's just spooky and unnerving. The first track is, appropriately enough, a cover of the Nico song "Abschied," so Varney's influences are pretty clear. Other songs like "The Dog Burial" are very unsettling indeed, with lurching rhythms, twisted melodies and demonic vocals. Elsewhere, the proceedings step back from the edge of terror, content to be merely depressing, such as the English-sung "No One Is There." The lyrics are not any more cheery than you would expect from the title. There are, however, a handful of more upbeat moments, such as in the masterfully developed "Procession / Funeral March." This is an all instrumental number that takes a simple melody and elaborates on it over the course of its seven minutes. It's quite captivating, and the rhythm is propulsive (although the style is no less dark than anything else here, really.)
Both volumes of the "Dead Lover's Sarabande" are ideal for Halloween parties and Vampire: The Masquerade sessions. It's hard to get any more Goth than this, but the music is undeiably beautiful in its tragedy and there's nothing else quite like it for complimenting a melancholy mood. I believe this disc (along with several other Sopor Aeternus albums) was recently reissued, so anyone wanting to pick up a copy should be in luck.