Saturday, March 24, 2012

Little Red Lung by Little Red Lung

From the first swirl of noise you know you are in for a listening experience that probably has no borders. When the lyrical warbling of Zoe-Ruth Erwin kicks in, along with that Brechtian-style of discordant/industrial/cabaret melodies, the drenched atmosphere makes you feel like you are in some underlit cellar club with bricks on the wall and a single candle on each table. Think Hotel Cafe, but underground...and in Europe. (I happened to see Little Red Lung there for the first time back in January) Listening to the album one is immediately struck by the distinct assurance of this weird amalgam of American/English Punk, Berlin-style Cabaret, Lewis Carroll upside-down logic, and Broadway theatricality. Zoe-Ruth Erwin has obviously been a student of all these genres and ultimately distills them into her own personal style.

Just as they do at their live shows, they transport you to another land, full of new and unusual sounds and surrealistic lyrics. Dripping with mood and always bolstered by a large and varied assortment of guest musicians on instruments like the violin, xylophone, wood blocks, cello, even a trombone, the sound is always surprising and unexpected. Zoe-Ruth's mastery of the keyboard and piano is the leading force along with the regular musicians who form the basic solids in the stew. Ali Nikou on guitar, Nathan Kondor on drums and Rob Hume on bass, but it's Zoe-Ruth's voice, and stage presence, that is just witchy and weird enough that she reminds me of Stevie Nicks.

Soaring melodies and graceful harmonies take off in the first song, "50 Fingers" who' s subject matter remains mysterious as you're lifted up by the clouds of music, the ascending chords wrapping you up in their atmosphere. Six songs later you're astonished at the range of skill and wanting more. Charlene Huang' violin and Cecilia Miller's cello are welcome additions to the orchestral nature of the compositions, both live and on the record. Ali Nikou recorded and mixed the record beautifully at Master Blaster Productions and it's rich and clear sound is at a highly professional level.

I don't know that I can single out favorites yet, but the variety of songs afford opportunity to explore, from the haunting "Fang" to the confrontational "Into a Landfill" to a kabuki-like "Strangling Tree" . I've come across a lot of wonderful music in the last few weeks, but this one is a stand out. It's music like this that keeps me thinking that Rock and Roll as a genre may only now be hitting it's creative apex. Or is that just a hallucination brought on by listening to this Little Red Lung record too much.


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