Label: Caciocavallo Format: CD
It is daunting to say the least to be assigned reviews of one of my most top favourite aritsts. I have spent the better part of a cold day indoors listening to these two albums on repeat and I don’t hesitate to tell you it has been a bit of a long winter’s brain-fuck. To me every little thing that Edward Ka-Spel works on turns out near genius or beyond. He is a man who can speak almost casually with the inner soul, with the subconcious, with the maddest parts of one’s nature. Like the good prophet he is sometimes called, he can take volumes of lyrics and turn them into words that seem so familiar that they must be truths, the truths no one would ever tell you. He seems to hold co-incidence by the reins of a puppetmaster. He is tender and subverted. But how do I tell you what these two records sound like?
Red Letters: This is the calmer of two albums soundwise. Edward keeps his voice gentle and sweet as he tells tales of things which would inspire red of anger or red of bleeding or red of devotion. Lyrically, the one word that sticks to me and is used twice at least is shame, and I think of the red face of shame, an indignity committed and regretted but ultimately repeated. “The lord declared him blameless, he watched him from above, Descended, whispered gently: ‘what you did, you did for love’…” The music is all beautiful, piano or synthed pianos and strings here and there and a bit of electronic bleeping and scatterings of noise. Overall it is slow and hypnotic, nearly controlled. The arrangements are sweeping and pull in the tethered listener to be a participating witness; passivity is usually out of the question when listening to Edward. And one would have to be the most arrogant cryptographer ever to assume one could break his codes, figure out his meanings.
The thing is, these pieces appeal to the reddest parts of the heart and make it all so accessible as to make it one’s own. I will not be so smug as to even try to guess what any of this means to Edward, but I know what it all means to me. Musically the familiarity breeds in another way as well. He seems to take pieces of other pieces and re-work them. Red Letters seems to reference basslines and circling melodies from Tanith and the Lion Tree, and from Pink Dots songs from as far back as The Golden Age, though they are reworked just enough to keep me from naming specifics. There is a very fine line of difference as Edward’s voice is so distinctive, and his choice of musicians is always so exclusive that this common ground could come solely from those facts. I do rather like the idea of his work going on and on in creative process so that it is created and recreated and never ever finished.
Now, The Scriptures…, and o! it is too tempting the idea of giving Edward credit for creating a new set of those. This record is a bit more viceral than Red Letters, but not out of line with the unlimited reach of a Ka-Spel creation. The music is louder here, with a lot more sound sources and noise infusions. Dotted throughout, (indeed another pun and there are Dots members too), anyway, dotted throughout are interuptions from what sounds like radios or TV. Now and again a fast-forward tape imitates a calliope. There is so much more percussive madness, so much more use of machines. There seems to be a running story to Illumina but I won’t try to decipher this one either.
Lyrically there is less generalization (if there ever was that) and we are treated perhaps to Edward’s nightmares. Sometimes he uses his voice to create gutteral sounds that are ever so distubing layered as they are with Ryan Moore‘s hypnotic beats. It all changes quickly so that one minute I found myself kind of grooving around the lounge and the next I was gripped up in fear as I tried in vain to figure out what was happening. Again I feel faced with the oddity of trying to decide if a song is a continuation of some other one. “The Never Man” sounds so familiar, and I find I can easily (if badly ) sing along with it. Such a mystery. My personal favourite is a track titled “Laughing Venus”. It is cinemagraphictastic and has the best line ever to describe how Edward Ka-Spel’s songs makes me feel: “…the stars seem closer tonight. If I had hands, I’d surely pick them…”
Why the LPD and Edward Ka-Spel releases have such a hard time making it to the UK is a strange irritation. My advice is to do what you must to get a hold of these and all; at least they’re available to order online. Anyone who loves music should own as much of the Edward Ka-Spel catalogue as possible.