Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Black Fortress of Opium

Truth in advertising. The Boston noir rockers take their name from an actual dark-age citadel situated atop a massive volcanic rock formation, surrounded by poppy fields. It’s hard to think of a better description for what they play. Led by a multi-instrumentalist who goes by Ajda the Turkish Queen, the group plays hypnotic, often mesmerizing songs that unwind with a darkly slinky sensuality, sometimes exploding in rage. Think Elysian Fields, Bee & Flower or Botanica at their blackest and bleakest, with a more ambient sensibility. Martin Bisi’s raw yet rich production blends layer upon layer of reverb guitar in with Ajda’s mandolin, banjo, wind instruments and “field recordings,” creating an irresistible sonic tar pit. The album seems to be something of a suite, many of the songs in the same key, hanging on the same chord or nearby for minutes at a clip as the storm rises, falls and rises again. The cd opens with the gothic-titled House of Edward Devotion, pretty much setting the stage for what’s to come with its eerie overtones, the melody only baring its fangs in the quietest moments. The cd continues in the same vein with the aptly titled Black Rope Burns. With its ferocious sheets of distorted slide guitar, the next cut, a seven-minute epic called Ari is the album’s high point, capped by an earth-shattering plummet into the abyss by the guitars toward the end of the song.

 

After the quiet, acoustic interlude Crack + Pool, Twelve Gross picks up the pace like Nina Nastasia in her most lushly orchestrated moments on The Blackened Air. Your Past kicks it up a notch with its alternately wistful and jarringly percussive noise-rock, like Siouxsie & the Banshees as covered by Live Skull. Model Café is a sad, sarcastic, minimalist lament leading into a fiery reprise of Crack + Pool, Ajda’s flute stark in relief against an impenetrable wall of guitar. The album winds up with the sultry, bluesy soul ballad From a Woman to a Man before reverting to the trance-inducing sound of the rest of the album with the ominous, nine-minute Dulcet TV. This is a sensationally good ipod album. And even if the band just plays the cd’s basic tracks onstage, they should be awesome live.

June 30, 2008 - Posted by | Music, Reviews

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