STEAM AGE SYMPHONY (VP)
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
Welcome to the inner workings of Joshua A. Pfeiffer’s mind, or Rick A. Mortis as he is more generally known. I suspect this is going to surprise quite a few people.
‘Listen in the dark, and keep it LOUD’ is the advice given on the sleeve and so I did while anticipating this supposed blood-red moon we were meant to be having tonight. As I waited patiently by an open window, with rain occasionally splashing in, so the groaning, elegiac opener spreads like wax on slate; a gentle Industrial hybrid made stately by the sighing backing vocal betraying the first orchestral stirrings.
And then it just flows. The tracks fold together neatly (with one or two tiny but noticeable hitches, which need ironing out) and a quasi-martial beat arrives that then manages to bounce with quite a droopy ambience, just taking the edge off what could have been an annoying accompaniment. This is a clever idea, giving the music just enough backbone, without insisting upon a rhythmic assault.
It’s very ‘Sleepy Hollow, with more than a hint of an approaching storm, and with ‘Dusk Express’ we shift up slightly through the ominous gears, being stalked, rather than chased, by a train. It’s possibly even Omenesque, but with the outright stark fear always played down: a city noir nightmare taken towards a gentle point, and that’s what makes it such a curious blend. By not going for obvious shocks and extremes it simply carries along, and sounds fresh. Cinematic, rather than melodramatic, but not background music as it’s so full, with a touch of funereal organ piping through, or the rhythmical twirl allowing the beat to resurface at times to keep us shuffling along through a dilapidated landscape of sounds.
Because it isn’t trying to be unsettling in a clichéd manner it is also enjoyable, and it then pulls a final surprise out of a battered hat. Some vocal shadows are groaning in ’Grudge’ and return towards the end. My initial reaction was that these might totally ruin the effect, but again they’re gone before you know it, and their return is also quite unexpected. The rhythm even becomes bracing with an almost bubbling sound, elevating successfully at the end before fading and you’re left sitting there, bemused but highly content.
At first I didn’t understand the length at six actual tracks (one unlisted), until I pm-ed him and found it's a demo for an album to be released later this year. So that's a further treat to come. And it will be a treat.
It’s like Terminator, made in Victorian London.
CHASING THE GHOST