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The Bittersweet Constrain
Projekt Presents: A Dark Cabaret
Black tape for a blue girl
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Black Tape For A Blue Girl
Revue Noir is the dramatic collaboration between dark cabaret chanteuse Nicki Jaine and Black tape for a blue girl leader Sam Rosenthal. Residing somewhere between rock, cabaret and torch singer, Nicki's captivating performance embodies the decadence and sorrow that filled the nights of pre-WWII Europe. Her direct, passionate delivery implores, seduces and screams out, setting a mood of desire and despair.
"Nicki is a performer who's never left an audience less than riveted: With her cabaret noir style and a compelling, coquettish emotional nudity, Jaine is simply possessed of a timeless style within a voice that is just unexpected from such a vulnerable-looking young woman." - East Coast Rocker
Arranging vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, electronics, drums and violin, Sam brings together the diverse elements to create a nurturing environment for Nicki's performance. This charismatic group creates intense, narrative-driven songs; their emotional Weimar Republic-inspired expressionism captures the essence of an era when the world - externally and internally - was crumbling and all that was left was losing oneself in beauty and debauchery. Painfully direct and honest, this world is populated by lovers and friends who betray, disappoint, and unexpectedly disappear, leaving the storyteller adrift and worse for wear.
Along with the 10 original compositions are versions of The Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties," David Bowie's "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" and the Brecht/Weill classic "Alabama Song." Within the originals are three tracks Sam first recorded with Black tape for a blue girl.
For ANTHOLOGY ARCHIVE, along with the already released material, Sam archived and revived seven additional rehearsal, demo & live tracks including two brand new original compositions ("Strange Little Show" and "She is the Madman"). "When Revue Noir stopped performing in 2005, there were only five songs that we released," Sam recalls. "While we both continued on with our own music, finishing up a Revue Noir album remained on my 'to do list'. At the end of 2007, I went back into the computer and found we had a lot of material laid down for rehearsing songs for live shows. There were bits recorded in my studio, or MP3s Nicki sent me to rehearse to. In looking through all of that, I realized we did have the material for the album, all that was required was adding the touches to finish it up." ANTHOLOGY ARCHIVE is an intimate glimpse at what could have been / what might yet be.
"The spirit of the Weimar Republic lives on in the music of Revue Noir. Ostensibly a project of vocalist Nicki Jaine and Black Tape for a Blue Girl's Sam Rosenthal, Revue Noir's sound brings to mind a forgotten world of cabaret and torch songs, but without the postmodern performance art aspects of a group like The Dresden Dolls. The songs feature beautiful arrangements of piano, drums, strings, yet the real star of the show is Jaine's voice, which makes me think of Kafka and Marlene Dietrich drinking the night away at the Blue Angel." - Liar Society.com "This type of music stands in a long tradition, from Kurt Weill to Nico. Somewhere between moody pop, rock, cabaret and singer-songwriters. Typical for Revue Noir are the smoky, low vocals of Nicki Jaine, who also plays piano and guitar. Sam Rosenthal (Black tape for a blue girl) takes care of a subtle electronic background, with further musicians adding a tasteful accompaniment of drums, violins, cello and theremin. The songs have something of a lazy, sensual cabaret style. Songs which tell stories, like the morbid 'The gravediggers' or the personal confessions of 'A girl, a smoke'. Revue Noir shows quite some potential on this first offering." - Funprox
"The spirit of the Weimar Republic lives on in the music of Revue Noir. Ostensibly a project of vocalist Nicki Jaine and Black Tape for a Blue Girl's Sam Rosenthal, Revue Noir's sound brings to mind a forgotten world of cabaret and torch songs, but without the postmodern performance art aspects of a group like The Dresden Dolls. The songs feature beautiful arrangements of piano, drums, strings, yet the real star of the show is Jaine's voice, which makes me think of Kafka and Marlene Dietrich drinking the night away at the Blue Angel." - Liar Society.com
"This type of music stands in a long tradition, from Kurt Weill to Nico. Somewhere between moody pop, rock, cabaret and singer-songwriters. Typical for Revue Noir are the smoky, low vocals of Nicki Jaine, who also plays piano and guitar. Sam Rosenthal (Black tape for a blue girl) takes care of a subtle electronic background, with further musicians adding a tasteful accompaniment of drums, violins, cello and theremin. The songs have something of a lazy, sensual cabaret style. Songs which tell stories, like the morbid 'The gravediggers' or the personal confessions of 'A girl, a smoke'. Revue Noir shows quite some potential on this first offering." - Funprox
There are certain singers that immediately remove you from your surroundings with the sound of their voice. They take you to some far away place or time and immediately you forget all your troubles. You find yourself swimming through the song, taking in the lyrics and melody; they leave you treading through pure emotion. There is a dissociative quality that drips from their lips, though side effects may vary. Nicki Jaine is one such singer. Heralded by Regenmag.com as a "cabaret chanteuse and underground cult icon," Nicki Jaine brings you back to the decadently distracting old Berlin - before and during the WWII. Her voice is the only thing you hear as the bombs drop around you; comforting you, drawing you in. In 2004, Jaine released her debut solo album, Of Pigeons and Other Curiosities; the Revue Noir Anthology Archive eleven track release showcased Jaine"s extremely powerful voice and personal lyrics. In its review for the album, AllMusic.com noted "Jaine's voice has the smoky, strong, and when needed, sneering tone down, equal parts Marlene Dietrich and Marianne Faithful - it's a voice of confidence, of assured strength and wry wit, and sometimes of downright disturbing work." Two years later, Jaine released a live recording, Nicki Jaine Live; which featured original songs alongside covers such as the standard "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon" (which is truly one of the best recordings I"ve ever heard of the song) and Brecht/Weill"s 1927 classic "Alabama Song."
After touring with Black Tape For A Blue Girl (playing guitar, piano and singing) during their Halo Star tour, Jaine hooked up with Black Tape leader and Projekt record label owner Sam Rosenthal to form Revue Noir. After releasing a three song self-titled single in 2005, Revue Noir finally release their debut full-length Anthology Archive. The album is split into two parts; THE RELEASED TRACKS and THE ARCHIVE. The five studio tracks on this release include the three on the single; a cover of Black Tapes" "The Gravediggers," the Nicki Jaine penned "Amsterdamn" (which appeared on her debut), "A Girl, A Smoke," "Sometimes Sunshine" (which appeared on Projekt"s A DARK CABARET compilation) and a cover of David Bowie"s "Rock"N"Roll Suicide." THE ARCHIVE portion of the album features rehearsal recordings, live tracks and demos; including two Black Tape songs ("Halo Star" and "I Have No More Answers"), a cover of The Velvet Underground"s "All Tomorrow"s Parties" and another appearance of "Alabama Song".
The first time I heard Revue Noir, was years ago at an ill-fated South Florida festival. When Florida"s trademarked stormy weather disrupted the fest and left patrons and bands alike fleeing except for a few fans who huddled together under a tent before a dark stage and listened to the only band that would brave the weather and save the festival: Revue Noir. It was from that instant that I knew this band was something special and I have waited ever since for a full-length release. Anthology Archive is that release and it is by no means a disappointment. The album captures the magic I witnessed on the dark stage that night. The collaboration between Nicki Jaine and Sam Rosenthal are unparalleled to any I"ve seen before. They don"t just create music, but create an entire mood, an entire environment for you to listen. With artists like The Dresden Dolls and Rasputina bringing "anachronistic" music to the masses, I imagine Revue Noir"s music would fit alongside perfectly. I can hardly wait to see what Sam and Nicki come up with next! - Peter Kelsch
A creative collaboration between Sam Rosenthal – founder of landmark dark-pop band Black Tape for a Blue Girl – and “dark cabaret” singer Nicki Jaine, Revue Noir effectively captured the smoke-tinged, melancholy decadence that characterized the nightclubs of 1930s Berlin and augmented that feeling with 21st-century instrumentation. It sincerely transposed the fears, desires and despairs of that time & place into the chaotic uncertainty of the present, and achieved this (thankfully) without a hint of postmodern irony. The end result was a sexy, bruised sadness that, while far from cheerful, was still possessed with a playfully seductive spirit.
Although they quit performing as an official unit three years ago, Revue Noir’s handful of recorded works – including a self-titled single – continued to buzz about the web community, and Rosenthal was eager to release their recordings on CD through his own thriving label, Projekt Records. But with only a few completed studio tracks available, there would not have been enough new content for a full-length album. Fortunately, his hopes were ultimately rewarded last year after he uncovered a wealth of possibilities.
"I went back into the computer and found we had a lot of material laid down for rehearsing songs for live shows,” He explains in their press release. “There were bits recorded in my studio, or MP3s Nicki sent me to rehearse to. In looking through all of that, I realized we did have the material for the album, all that was required was adding the touches to finish it up."
His efforts resulted in Anthology Archive, comprised of a dozen tracks combining the three original releases with the aforementioned rehearsals, demos and several live cuts. The new recordings include some intriguing covers of David Bowie’s Ziggy-era anthem “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and the Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill classic “Alabama Song” (which Bowie, The Doors and Marilyn Manson have all covered as well). We also get a few reinterpretations of classic Black Tape songs and some original tracks as well.
On most tracks, Rosenthal and Jaine share instrumental duties; a smoky bar-room piano is the main accompaniment, but additional contributions from several guest musicians on drums, violin and theremin combine to create a musical spectrum ranging from pop to jazz to classical to ambient-electro. The unifying thread for these diverse styles is Jaine’s emotionally intense vocal delivery, which keeps the tone anchored in a dreamy, wistful reverie. Her deep, sleepy-toned but emotionally intense voice comes a bit of a shock at first, considering her waifish, broken-doll appearance; I did not expect to hear a robust combination of Nina Simone, Marlene Dietrich and the Velvets’ Nico coming from such a fragile-looking creature.
“The Gravediggers” kicks off the CD as most characteristic of the flamboyant, swaggering “dark cabaret” style (think Dresden Dolls with stripped-down production), but the mood quickly turns bittersweet for the lonely, slow waltz “Amsterdam” and the angry but eerie “A Girl, A Smoke” – all three carried over from the 2005 EP. The “Released Tracks” portion of the album is rounded out by two new studio cuts: the aforementioned Bowie cover (which subs the original’s skewed optimism with a feeling of drunken resignation) and the reeling, broken-carousel ditty “Sometimes, Sunshine.”
The “Archive” section contains all the newly-unearthed material, which ranges from ghostly, floating renditions of Black Tape favorites like “Halo Star” (from the same-titled album) and “I Have No More Answers” (from Remnants of a Deeper Purity), live recordings including the Velvets and Brecht/Weill covers, a run-through of “A Girl, A Smoke” and three original songs: the quirky “Strange Little Show,” demented underwater lullaby “Sunshine IV” and the disturbing “She is the Madman,” which surprisingly veers a bit into Nine Inch Nails territory. Among these, the live tracks are the most memorable, effectively capturing the feel of the room and the mood of the evening; it’s no surprise, really, since the band built their cult reputation on the strength of their emotionally powerful live performances.
It’s a shame – especially if the group is truly retired for good – that there’s not a full live show captured on CD or DVD (at least none that I’m aware of), because it would be the next-best thing to experiencing the band in their purest form. For now, Anthology Archive will have to suffice… but that’s no small achievement, especially for those with a pitch-black romantic sensibility, or anyone who thinks raw emotional pain makes for sexy tunes. - Gregory S. Burkart
REVUE NOIR ist das neue, ambitionierte Projekt von Sam Rosenthal (Black Tape For A Blue Girl) und der Sängerin Nicki Jane, die nicht nur durch ihre offenkundige Schönheit, sondern eine ebenso anziehende Stimme zu begeistern weiß. Gefühlvoll, oberflächlich fragil wirkend, aber von einer inneren Stärke durchdrungen führt einen das Duo durch eine Welt voller vom Leben geschriebener Geschichten und kurzen musikalischen Momentaufnahmen.
Nicki Janes Gesang wird meist von Klavier oder Akkustik-Gitarre, hier und dort durch Schlagzeuge, Violine aber auch so ungewöhnliche Instrumente wie ein Theremin begleitet. "Anthology Archive" besteht aus zwei Teilen, die zusammen auf eine Spielzeit von knapp 46 Minuten kommen. Die ersten fünf Stücke wurden bereits andernorts veröffentlicht, am bekanntesten dürfte hierbei "Sometimes, Sunshine" sein, dass bereits auf dem "A Dark Cabaret"-Sampler punkten konnte. Wobei das mit betörender Stimme vorgetragene "Amsterdam" diesen Song nocheinmal überflügelt. Der Gesang und die Art der Texte erschaffen gepaart mit der ruhig komponierten Musik eine sehr intime Atmosphäre, die zum Träumen anregt. Die Hausnummern sechs bis 13 enthalten bis dato unveröffentlichte Aufnahmen aus dem Band-Archiv, die Demo-Aufnahme des auch in der Final-Version enthaltenen "A Girl, A Smoke" (hier wesentlich düsterer), die "Sometimes, Sunshine"-Variation "Sunshine IV" und zwei Live-Aufnahmen: "Halo Star" und ein Cover des The Doors-Klassikers "Alabama Song". Selbiges Cover ist zwar nicht herausragend, hat aber durchaus Charme.
"Anthology Archive" dürfte unter Anhängern des "Dark Cabaret" für Begeisterungsstürme sorgen. Das ganze in eine Genre-Schublade zu stecken, würde der hier dargebotenen Musik jedoch Unrecht tun. REVUE NOIR wollen erlebt werden und lassen einen nicht mehr los.
She's the madman...
When I first heard the self-titled single from Revue Noir, I hoped it was the start, just the merest taste, of what was to come. Nicki Jaine's voice defies explanation; how can someone so young sound so world-weary, so filled with the despair that decadence brings? The musical backdrop of piano, acoustic guitar, accordion, violin, and Sam Rosenthal's keyboards and electronics provides the perfect atmosphere of decay, desire, emotion, and artifice. Truly, Revue Noir is a rare bird that could boast of being both faithful to the cabaret spirit of the Weimar Republic and creating music that is vital, authentic, and new.
I've always been a bit skeptical of the label "dark cabaret." It seemed like an attempt to label something that didn't yet exist, or an early bet placed on what might become the next big thing. Even so, Revue Noir is dark cabaret. Their music is all about atmosphere, and that atmosphere is smokey, sultry, and desperate. It is at once a funeral song for a moment that is slipping away, and a celebration of the inevitable, marching progression of modernity.
Anthology Archive collects the totality of Revue Noir's musical output. Outstanding originals such as the Marlene Dietrich-esque "Sometimes, Sunshine" and the torch song balladry of "Strange Little Show" mix freely with noir'd covers of David Bowie, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Weill and Brecht, and The Velvet Underground. I would be lying if I didn't disclose that I'm currently haunted by the track "Sunshine IV," a prefect fusion of ethereal cabaret and the organ music soundtrack to the film The Carnival of Souls. And those of you who missed out on picking up on the original Revue Noir CD single should note that all three of those tracks are included on this collection.
As much as I am already in love with this release, it is, admittedly, a bittersweet kind of love. In a sense, Anthology Archive feels like a summation of something that was just beginning, something that held a great deal of promise. The only real problem with this release is that you will want more, more, more. Still, Anthology Archive is a surpassing deep recording, and like the end of the Weimar era, it comes with a hope for some future day when this spirit will live on. Rating: 5/5
Revue Noir features the exquisite vocals of Nicki Jaine, one of the pillars of the Dark Cabaret; and the musical brilliance of Sam Rosenthal, one of the founders of the premier darkwave band Black Tape for a Blue Girl. The first part of the CD is entitled “The Released Tracks” and consists of three tracks of the 2005 release “The Revue Noir Single” and an additional two tracks. “The Gravedigger” originally appeared on the Black Tape for a Blue Girl album “Halo Star”. Nicki Jaine’s vocals and guitar lend her own wonderful stamp to the song, while Rosenthal’s eerie electronics and a touch of violin make it a true Gothic classic. Nicki Jaine’s great “Amsterdam: is next, with the perfect combination of wistfulness, regret, and sarcasm. “A Girl A Smoke”, also by Nicki is dark, pessimistic and angry, a perfect cabaret number. “I feel it’s like a disease/the way we come back asking for more…” Next is a superb cover of Bowie’s Rock and Roll Suicide”, which is given a whole interpretation with Nicki’s distinctive vocals and the carnival-type effects towards the end. Incidentally, backing vocals are provided by Athan Maroulis of Fahrenheit 451 and Spahn Ranch fame. The rollicking, yet disquieting “Sometimes, Sunshine”, which was released on the 2005 compilation “Dark Cabaret” finishes this section.
Next is “The Archive”, eight unreleased tracks including two BTBG songs, “Halo Star” (live) and “I Have No More Answers”. A wonderful rehearsal version of “A Smoke a Girl” is included, with live covers of “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and “Alabama Song”. “Strange Little Show” is an original piece, combining cabaret vocals and saloon-hall piano with quirky interludes. “Sunshine IV” is another original, dark and poignant with wonderfully haunting organ and spooky echo effects. “She is the Madman” is an absolute masterpiece of gothic sensibilities, which showcases the incredible depths of Nicki’s vocals and Sam’s intuitively dark and atmospheric electronics.
“Revue Noir: Anthology Archive” is a sheer delight. This CD is essential for fans of Nicki Jaine and Sam Rosenthal; aficionados of Dark Cabaret and Goth; and anyone who appreciates highly original and evocative music. (I would like to thank Nicki Jaine for signing my copy of “Anthology Archives” at the Eccentrik Festival!)
Dark Cabaret has thrived as of late, particularly with the ascent of The Dresden Dolls into the mainstream. But The Dresden Dolls are hardly the only band that participates in genuine forms of a Cabaret style. Revue Noir, which largely consists of Nicki Jaine and Sam Rosenthal, bring their own uniquely genuine take on the genre to the frontline. It is Nicki Jaine’s darkly Germanic voice that adds credence to the tunes of Revue Noir. Sam Rosenthal’s electronics add moodiness, smudging the songs with an element of mystery.
The 13-track Anthology Archive bring together the 3-song Revue Noir CD Single released in 2005, a transformed cover of Bowie’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” (from .2 Contamination comp – 2005), “Sometimes, Sunshine” (released on the Dark Cabaret comp – 2005), and a selection of recorded and archived rehearsal tracks, MP3 demos, and live tracks.
“The Gravediggers” from the CD Single is a gothic tune injecting violin into what might be the most captivating track on the collected disc. But there are other excellent pieces that include a captivating cover of Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow Parties” recorded live from a show in Salt Lake City in 2004 – I would love to hear Nicki Jaine do a cover of another Nico-fronted Velvet Underground track, “Femme Fatale.” A live version (NYC – 2005) of black tape for a blue girl’s “Halo Star” is beautifully rendered here as well.
Cabaret is not for everyone but those who adopt it as a legitimate style will be pleased with this collected set of cabaret-styled music. Rating: 4/5
Like many I first encounter Revue Noir on the seminal "Projekt Presents: A Dark Cabaret" compilation released back in 2005. This compilation and the Revue Noir song ("Sometimes, Sunshine") had a huge influence on us.
If dark cabaret chanteuse Nicki Jaine and darkwave godfather Sam Rosenthal could see the commonalities in their music we realized that we weren't crazy for seeing Sepiachord everywhere we looked. As such it was time we quit chatting about it amongst ourselves and set out to chat about it with the world.
But enough about us...
A few years ago the pairing of Nicki and Sam would have struck some folks as odd. One comes from an "organic" background owing much to the cabaret of Weimar germany, the other a master of ambient and ethereal music (based primarily on electronics). But as the five "Released" tracks on this "Anthology Archive" testify Revue Noir was a perfect meeting of like minded individuals.
Nicki Jaine is in the forefront here, the emphasis remains on her striking and seductive voice and her skilled piano playing. His years working in his own group, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, and producing other artists have given Rosenthal the instinct and tools to accent and accentuate other musicians. Often "super-groups" end up falling flat, but not Revue Noir. Sam adds a richness and complexity to Nicki's performance with out metamorphosizing her into something she isn't, something forced and artificial.
The duo exhibit a naturalness that usually comes from musicians who've worked together for years. Each of the Released songs (one from the afore mention "A Dark Cabaret" CD, three from the Revue Noir single and one from a David Bowie tribute) is a fully realized and well rounded composition. The end results sparkle darkly, these songs are such a wonderful blend of gloom, humor and theatricality that they are more "goth" than most bands that choose to stand under that musical umbrella.
It's a shame then that this project didn't last. To appease those who've wanted more Rosenthal and Jaine have prepared this CD: "Anthology Archive". It starts off with the five released tracks and then backs them up with eight unreleased songs.
The rehearsal version of "A Girl, A Smoke" is only of moderate interest as a demo of the released track, but the rest of songs all deserve close listens. There are four "new" studio songs and they're fine additions to the previously available tracks, though it's clear that the group picked the right songs for official release. These lost numbers could've been assembled with the first five tracks and been put out as a Revue Noir full length. But it's the three live tracks that occupy my mind the most.
The cover of the Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties" is incredible. It's a perfect match for the band who bring the appropriate sexiness and longing to the piece. It may actually be better than their cover of "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide".
The other two live songs are frustrating. Both their version of "Alabama Song" and the Rosenthal composition "Halo Star" show so much promise, so much potential that I can't help but wonder what could have been. There's so much talent here and they seemed to be both sharing the same vision that it's disappointing that Revue Noir never got a chance to fulfill the possibilities of these two songs.
A thought on the cover: I love the cover to this CD. The simple graphics are sharp, the almost black and white palette fits with the music. But it's the fact that Nicki's mouth is obscured that I find so remarkable. The viewer can't tell if she's smiling, pouting or frowning. The subtraction of this facial feature focuses the viewer on her intense eyes and gives her an almost alien appearance.
All in all "Anthology Archive" is a charming collection of songs that deserves to finally see the light of day and is a "must have" for any dark cabaret fans.