1 I’m Living in a Coma
2 Letter from Choco to Melody
3 Alone (words: EA Poe)
4 I’m Too High
5 My Dying Machine (Gary Numan)
6 For My Funeral
8 White Noise
9 Not Here
10 Don’t Ask Me If I’m Crazy
11 Fall Leaves Fall (words: Emily Bronte)
• Limited edition of 500
• Includes their cover of Gary Numan’s “My Dying Machine”
• Performing in June at Schauspielhaus Leipzig Germany as part of the Wave-Gotik-Treffen. Their fourth WGT appearance.
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Unto Ashes conjures a stirring and captivating album, simultaneously beautiful and unsettling. Pretty haunted things — their eleventh Projekt release in a career stretching two decades — effortlessly spans the ages from a dark and medieval flair to modern apocalyptic gothic-folk. Recorded almost entirely in an octagonal Victorian parlor room, bewitched by centuries-old traditions, the songs of reflective solemnity are swathed in dramatic, soaring choruses executed by Ericah Hagle, Michael Laird, and Bret Helm (of Audra).
The music harkens back to their groundbreaking debut, Moon Oppose Moon (PRO106 – 1999): Unto Ashes has wrought music with an unusually broad array of diverse instruments, including hammered dulcimer, harmonium, autoharp, psaltery, viola da gamba, acoustic guitar, piano, and Arabic percussion. The songs are masterfully crafted by Laird, whose enchanting production is characterized by a gossamer of sonic treatments.
The eerie, olden-skills Poppet dolls that adorn the covers seem to beckon the listener with binding spell of ensorcellment.
As is their custom, Unto Ashes’ songs are unified in their explorations of love, loss, and life. There are moments of quiet reverie followed by epic revelry. Ericah Hagle’s “White Noise” presents a harrowing hospital farewell; the melancholic and exalted “I’m Too High” reflects on a distant past; the mesmerizing “I’m Living in a Coma” concerns a flat-lined relationship and could almost be classified as psychedelic music; “Letter from Choco to Melody” is a magnificent eulogy to a beloved rescue cat, and can also be seen as a testament to undying love; the descending melody and preternatural harmonies on “Don’t Ask Me If I’m Crazy” are unforgettable. Strictly speaking, there is a love ballad on the album, although it is deceptively disguised as an anthem “For My Funeral”; some listeners have sworn that this is “the song” that must be played for them on “that day.”
Two songs are graced with words by 19th-century authors, namely Emily Bronte (“Fall Leaves Fall”) and E.A. Poe (“Alone”). Fans of Unto Ashes are well aware that the band has crafted many fine and completely original cover songs, and indeed their 2014 release Ghosts Captured contains no less than 25 (!) of them. On Pretty haunted things Unto Ashes pay homage to one of their early heroes, Gary Numan, with a breathtaking cover version of “My Dying Machine” performed exclusively on Arabic and Oriental instruments.
The title of the album (taken from a line in “I’m Too High”) obliquely references the pretty and haunted songs contained in it. Or is the band referring to the Poppet dolls, which are both pretty and haunted; or to people they either know or have not yet met? Regardless, Pretty haunted things might just be one of their finest conjurations to date.