Luminescent Orchestrii: Neptune’s Daughter

I’ve waited in eager anticipation for new music by Luminescent Orchestrii, and Neptune’s Daughter will finally be released on January 20th! Since I reviewed the band’s previous album Too Hot To Sleep two years ago, they have signed to Nile Mile Records – also home to The Zydepunks. I was first introduced to the music of Luminescent Orchestrii when they performed with The Dresden Dolls. Their sound dances between “world” music and what I call the demented circus genre. At times their songs are similar to the twisted Roma acoustics of 17 Hippies, yet there’s a deranged frenzy to the Orchestrii’s music that sets them apart.

Luminescent Orchestrii are violinists Sarah Alden and Rima Fand, guitarist and harmonica player Sxip Shirey, and Benji Fox Rosen on double bass. Neptune’s Daughter features guest musicians Greg Squared on clarinet, percussionist Mathias Kunzli, and human beat box Adam Matta. All of the core band members share vocal duties, often simultaneously.

The frenetic instrumental “Moldavian” sets the deliciously bizarre stage for this unique song cycle before Sarah and Rima’s haunting vocals churn up a wicked phantasmal rendering of “Mur Stojmeno”, a traditional Bulgarian song.

“Nasty Tasty” (first posted on Songs: Illinois) is a sexy, trippy little number featuring Matta’s human beat box. Yet Neptune’s Daughter is otherwise filled to the brim with the kind of warped traditional Eastern European music that made me love Luminescent Orchestrii in the first place.

The ominous instrumental “How To Play Romanian” creaks, groans, and lurches about for the first two and a half minutes until a whirlwind of demonic strings drags it into the underworld. The album falls into a churchyard hush with the lovely Jewish folk song “Di Zun Vet Aruntergeyn”.

The ladies croon seductively on the eerie “What The Water Said”, belt out the whizzing gypsy tune “Jarba”, then wail and hum the Cuban ballad “La Tarde”. Exotic percussion faces off with exuberant strings in the stunning “Dreaming In Turkish” and rabid “Militsa”. Finally, Sxip Shirey snarls verses while the girls play The Andrews Sisters on the diabolically romantic title track.

At best, I thought I would like this album as much as Too Hot To Sleep, but Luminescent Orchestrii have grandly outdone themselves here. Neptune’s Daughter is the first release of 2009 that I expect to list as a favorite at the end of the year. It also doesn’t hurt that the album’s cover features a mermaid (the English translation of “MurĂșch”).

Luminescent Orchestrii – Moldavian (mp3 expired) *
Luminescent Orchestrii – Nasty Tasty (mp3 expired) *

*mp3s posted w/ permission of record label

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Sophe Lux: Waking The Mystics

Sophe Lux is Wendy Haynes and her band of eclectic musicians. Their multifarious sound blends the sinister theatrics of Diamanda Galas, Gabriela Kulka and Vermillion Lies, the spectral quirkiness of Kate Bush, Tori Amos, and Hannah Fury, the smoother strange-pop style of Charlotte Martin, Universal Hall Pass, and A Fine Frenzy, and a vast array of instruments – guitar, piano, accordion, sax, trumpet, glockenspiel, lap steel, gong, synthesizers, and other effects. Sometimes the whole isn’t quite as interesting as its parts, but there are a few dazzlers on here.

The stand out tracks “Target Market” and “God Doesn’t Take American Express” layer jaunty accordion, brass, and guitar arrangements accented with operatic echos beneath Wendy’s serpentine susurrations and full-throated howls.

“Lonely Girl” begins with a militant rhythm that swirls into an ethereal melody. “Marie Antoinette Robot 2073 (A Rock Opera)” at first sounds like a nod to Hannah Fury’s “Marie Antoinette’s Necklace”, then builds into a Bowiesque electro-pop style before finishing with a ghostly choir of voices.

The slow, jazzy piano of “Time Of Light” and the eerie twang on “String Theory” are the most conventional moments on the album. “Little Soldier Of Time” and “President” make a surprising shift into retro girl pop. “Stella” has a sensual bump and grind electro-rock structure. And “Electra 33” mixes what sounds like a harpsichord and piano into a carousel melody.

Sophe Lux Official Site
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Camille O’Sullivan: La Fille Du Cirque Live DVD

The DVD of Camille O’Sullivan’s La Fille Du Cirque: Live At The Famous Spiegeltent Melbourne is even more entertaining than the album of the same performance and leaves no question that Camille is indeed an electrifying live performer.

After a dramatic noirish opening sequence showing off the venue, Camille takes the stage in a black velvet trench coat and matching vintage half-veiled hat. Her performance of “God Is In The House” is as striking visually as it was on the CD. Camille stands and flips open the trench to reveal a fire red satin corset as she and her band rip into “Devil’s Workshop”. Her purrs and roars before “A Good Man” are even more amusing with the cute scenes of her interaction with the audience.

She lets her hair down for her hushed, mesmeric rendition of “Amsterdam”, dons a red dress to dance with audience members during “In These Shoes”, then temporarily covers back up with the trench coat for “Mercy Seat”. The rest of the set plays out much like the album, with the spine-tingling a cappella “Marieke” again stealing the show. Camille hops on a large red swing that hangs from the ceiling for the finale “Is That All There Is?”.

The DVD also includes a brief interview with Camille.

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Camille O’Sullvan: A Little Yearning

Camille’s studio album A Little Yearning is much gentler in tone than her amazingly fierce live set La Fille Du Cirque: Live At The Famous Spiegeltent Melbourne. This time the focus is squarely on Camille’s melodic cabaret side, though she still covers Nick Cave and Tom Waits – as well as Sweet and Kurt Weill.

The album opens with the slow tango “A Little Yearning” and the pretty “Voir Un Ami Perurer” before launching into consecutive stand out tracks. The marvelous harpsichord rendering of Sweet’s “Oxygen” precedes an arresting harp accented cover of Nick Cave’s underwater murder ballad “Little Water Song”.

The cover of Tom Waits’ “Innocent When You Dream” is a duet with Jack L . I think I preferred Camille’s dramatic a cappella performance of “Marieke” on La Fille Du Cirque: Live At The Famous Spiegeltent Melbourne, but the smoother piano version on A Little Yearning is quite lovely. “Whatever Lola Wants” is paired with Weill’s “Pirate Jenny”.

“The Masochism Tango” is exactly what it seems – the pleasures of whips and bruises set to tango music. The sweeter melancholy of “Lilac Wine” follows. “The Song Of Old Lovers” and “Amsterdam” – both of which were also featured on Camille’s live disc – quietly close the album.

Camille O’Sullivan – Little Water Song (mp3)
Camille O’Sullivan – Voir Un Ami Pleurer (mp3)
Camille & Jack L – Innocent When You Dream (mp3)
Camille O’Sullivan – The Song Of Old Lovers (mp3)
Camille O’Sullivan – Whatever Lola Wants (mp3)

Camille O’Sullivan Official Site
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Camille O’Sullivan: La Fille Du Cirque Live CD

If La Fille Du Cirque: Live At The Famous Spiegeltent Melbourne is any indication, Camille O’Sullivan gives truly incredible and unique live performances. Her music is a staggering concoction of whooping burlesque jazz, surging heartfelt torch songs, and a darker, often menacing narrative style that does Tom Waits and Nick Cave – both of whom she covers – proud. The daughter of a French woman and an Irishman, Camille O’Sullivan was born in London and raised in Cork, Ireland. Camille has shared venues with Damien Rice, Shane McGowan, and Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls.

The intense opening rendition of “God Is In The House” – Nick Cave’s caustic satire of dogmatic bigotry – is initially mollified with sweet vocals and piano, but Camille finally unleashes a throaty growl toward the end to match the vitriolic climax of the lyrics.

Then “The Devil’s Workshop” boosts the mood with a blare of horns accompanying Camille’s seductive purrs and wails. “A Good Man” continues the brassy cabaret tone, with Camille literally growling at the audience this time.

The album finds it softer side in the wistful partly French ballad “Song For Old Lovers”, Cave’s “Are You The One”, and the Waits-toned “Amsterdam”. The saucy take on Kirsty Maccoll’s “In These Shoes” stirs things up again, before the somber tone of the opener is resurrected by Cave’s “The Mercy Seat”. The main set closes with a raspy rock cover of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream”.

The encore rounds out the album with Camille’s enthralling a cappella performance of “Marieke”, the livelier “Jacky”, and the charmingly apathetic classic “Is That All There Is?”

Camille O’Sullivan Official Site
Camille on MySpace
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