Canadian band Swan Lake, due to the respective pedigree and "indie" credentials of its three fine musicians has garnered the title of "supergroup" in some quarters. They have been able to survive what might have been a titular kiss-of-death and given us two splendid albums : 'Beast Moans' (2006) and this, their most recent offering, 'Enemy Mine (2009). The angular ferocity of their debut, without losing any of its power, has mellowed somewhat in their new offering and displays songwriting of even greater complexity and intelligence than before.
The band are : Spencer Krug (vocals, guitar and keyboards); Carey Mercer (Vocals and guitar) and Dan Bejar (vocals and guitar). Their combined talent breathes life into music of considerable originality. Whimsical, a little dark in a good way and possessing a curious dynamic energy which has the capacity to both curdle our blood and make the hairs stand up on the backs of our necks.
The surreally dream-like fairground waltz of 'Ballad Of A Swan Lake, Or, Daniel's Song' is an unsettling example of what they do best. The teetering rhythm, abrasive guitar and out of kilter, almost inebriated, vocals are as disconcerting as they are entertaining. A splendid song!
Opening track 'Spanish Gold, 2044' sound like the long lost lovechild of David Bowie and Captain Beefheart! It struts and staggers along magnificently like a three-legged lion. A big bad anthemic sea-shanty of a song, hissing with static and ringing with monstrous jangling reverb-laden chords. The mad evangelical vocals are the icing on a very rich cake!
'Paper Lace' is almost charming in comparision. Light as a feather and sporting a lovely little fifties-tainted refrain which stands out in the collection like a bright star in a dark sky.
'Peace' is anything but peaceful. The yelping vocals and densely layered echoing arrangement are the stuff of nightmares. The calamitous denouement is a nerve-shredding delight!
'Spider' weaves a tight but nicely creepy web of sound which for a moment made me recall the sonic landscapes of Shriekback.
The delicate piano-led introduction to 'A Hand At Dusk' belies the less-than-lovely sentiments which slither and slide just below the surface of this deeply disorienting composition. Swan Lake are very much in touch with their inner-Gothic on this one.
Final Track 'Warlock Psychologist' refuses to settle down into an easily digestable formula and is all the better because of it. It eventually finds its way to a more coherent and curiously uplifting coda, bringing this extraordinary album to a rousing close.
Not for the faint-hearted or those looking for a little light listening but in its own way a thing of almost brutal beauty.