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A Dark Cabaret 2
There's a new sound in the underground: Dark Cabaret. Taking its visual cue from the decadence of 1920's Weimar Republic, bands such as Boston's The Dresden Dolls, New York City's Revue Noir, and San Francisco's Jill Tracy are tweaking the Cabaret sensibilities, mixing in elements of Rock, Punk & Death Rock to create an exciting new movement with a look and a sound uniquely their own.
The main historical flavor of cabaret in its darker form is of decadent thrills, providing a frisson of underground playfulness and debauchery, but a noble subtext is exemplified by the film Cabaret where, in 1930s Berlin, spirited humans laughed in the face of Fascist adversity. Modernism and Dada collided head on with wine, women and song: a heady mix.
Post-war it lost relevance and danger, but cabaret still happens. These noir themes of sex, wickedness or romance, all with a sardonic twist, come back to haunt and taunt, because its roots were meaningful and retain meaning in today’s political climate. It has the added attraction of glamour, and maybe a touch of superiority, given that intelligence burrowed right through its filthy little soul.
The past as part of the future? Formidable.
- Mick Mercer | website
The cover model is Bianca Abel | website
A Dark Cabaret is gothic morbidity meets Wiemar decadence. The songs on this compilation are mostly based around seductive piano and evocative vocals, yet each band brings something unique to the mix. The Dresden Dolls lean heavily toward art-school post-modernism, Jill Tracy brings macabre heat, and Katzenjammer Kabarett add a distinct post-punk ethos to their brand of music hall dissolution. Top marks go to Nicki Jaine's solo track and her vocal work with Revue Noir; there is just something about her voice that completely encapsulates the feel of a culture that laughed in the face of fin du monde fascism. There isn't a reason not to playing this album at your next sordid soiree. -Jack Shear Rating: 4/5
The Dresden Dolls’ ‘Coin-operated Boy’ is simply not cabaret style. With a chintzy trad tone, and brisk vocal story telling it is, despite an odd sound balance, a delightful piece of musical theatre. Revue Noir’s ‘Sometimes, Sunshine’ conjures up more elegant faux decadence, with the sense of exotic antiquity, utilising suspenseful piano and prudish strings. Jill Tracy is a stylish performer, but her ‘Evil Night Together’ keeps it in the family, being Dick Tracy-era impish seediness, and that sleazy city noir spills over onto the charming ‘Gemini Girly Song’ by Katzenjammer Kabarett, where raw guitar tickles their playfully perverse pop machinations.
The appearance of Audra’s tasteful ‘Cabaret Fortune Teller’, Nicki Jaine’s catchy ‘Pretty Faces’, with its understanding of suitable simplicity, and a stunning ‘Simon’s Sleeping’ by Pretty Balanced, possessing an almost frightened sound further establishes various strong indie capabilities, on top of which the cheery comedy of ‘Knock Three Times’ by Black Tape For A Blue Girl perches as a whimsical curio.
‘Audience To The End’ always was an oddity for The Brides and fits well in this collection, then you are sucked into ‘Flowers’ by Rozz Williams, finding him not as the drained Goth God, but a wonderfully washed out Warren Zevon, mesmerising with his fragile melancholia. Finally we hit ‘True Love’ by Thou Shalt Not and we’re back where we started, with something heroically noisy and yet svelte perfection as another piece of a theatrical bent, like a ragged Sondheim adventure.
A little sticker on the booklet announces that Cabaret sensibilities are being tweaked to accommodate Rock, Punk and Deathrock, and that’s all for the good. If they’d wanted to do a smoky cabaret revue they’d have needed artists agreed on a primitive approach and overall that would have produced an album limited in scope. This new noir, on the other hand, pulls together unlikely bedfellows for an orgy of creativity, and even if it’s only a one-off it’s a truly fantastic compilation.
Cabaret, a uniquely performed blend of theatricality and music, popular many years ago as a theatre experience, has been kept alive by those proficient in the voice and style that characterizes the genre. Its ability to lavish entertainment is heavily dependant on the skill of the performers as well as their ability to craft enjoyable cabaret tunes. Designed to entertain in the face of threat, at times quite bravely by ridiculing the very danger it was meant to mask, Cabaret was at the heart of decadence by nature of its immersion in clubs drenched in alcohol, adventurous people seeking a flow of good times, and an underlying flavour of fear. It has become far more than that today, never relinquishing the undercurrent of the very decadence it surveys.
Projekt’s A Dark Cabaret is a disc completely and legitimately filled with the best that can be found on cabaret’s uniquely arrayed platter. This collection of tracks celebrates the genre by rounding up a heavily talented selection of artists that know the genre. The artists found on Dark Cabaret represent different twists that range from straight cabaret to amazingly intricate reworkings that still employ the framework of the featured genre.
It begins with a genuinely entertaining song, “Coin-Operated Boy” by The Dresden Dolls. It sings, with hilarious results, of the joys of an artificial boy, which doesn’t bring complexity to a relationship but is available on demand; on when needed and desired above real boys. The Dresden Dolls deliver this song perfectly with piano; you hear it and you’re immediately hooked. Revue Noir, which features the amazingly unmatched Germanic voice of vocalist Nicki Jaine, who contributes her own track on this compilation, and Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape For a Blue Girl, follows it with “Sometimes, Sunshine.” It delivers a darker form of cabaret than The Dresden Dolls perform.
A more musically complex tune is available from Katzenjammer Kabarett. Their contributed “Gemini Girly Song” provides a more gothic-sounding quality than songs preceding the track but prepares the way for the following Audra song, “Cabaret Fortune Teller,” itself a heavier, rock-oriented, change of pace. Nicki Jaine offers her, “Pretty Faces,” an acoustic piece that frames her amazingly deep and natural, Nico-like voice, and whose stunning beauty adds to the mystique of her persona. There are many more tracks of cabaret material on this album. All demand further exploration, generally the grace of sampler compilation albums. Projekt Records is not a timid label. It is unafraid of releasing albums featuring music that span vastly unexplored styles that (usually) get little attention. A Dark Cabaret is a splendid album of choice that can open up a new level of entertainment for the musically adventurous.
Highly recommended. With a very, very nice price, this is a great deal. - Matt Rowe
Amalgamate the smoky underground club esprit of a Weimar-era cabaret with the emotional edge of gothic-driven music and the spirit of punk and you'll get an idea of this musical rendezvous. Violins, piano and red wine, welcome. Wrapped in themes like eroticism, wickedness or romance, all with a sardonic twist, this is a nightly merry-go-round. From The Dresden Doll's well known single "Coin-Operated Boy" to less known bands/contributions, the compilation offers a very homogeneous landscape.
Black Tape For A Blue Girl serve a certain kind of romance and a moiety of Bauhaus, Audra seduce with a gothic rock influenced piece that unleashes a special swingin' rhythm, ThouShaltNot's "True Love" is a piece between sensitive moments and dramatical outbreaks, enriched with church bell and police siren sounds.
Also notable is Rozz William's piano ballad "Flowers". This one's taken from the "Dream Home Heartache" release, the CD that reunited Gitane DeMone and Rozz after almost a decade of seperation.
Combined with a suitable, dressy artwork, this CD is a quite interesting change to the many humdrum comps. -Breda