Brendan Perry - Ark
But let's not get this review off to a bad start. No one can argue that Brendan Perry is a master at what he does. He has composed all the songs on this album; he arranges them all; he sings all the vocals; and he plays all the instruments. Credit to anyone who can do all this must be given. The songs have a very distinctive atmosphere about them without becoming sound-alikes of each other. There is, of course, a heavy reliance on synthesisers and other bits of electronic gadgetry but that is to be expected.
However, Ark is far from a wall of electronic sound requiring a genius in the studio to attempt to breathe some life into it. Perry infuses it with character by bringing to bear a whole range of a variety of instruments. Gongs and flutes, whistles and natural sounds can all be detected on this album. Furthermore, Brendan Perry has a rich voice which ideally suits the music. Never deep enough to become potentially doom-laden, he has sufficient range at the lower end of the scale to lend gravitas to his more sombre passages and then send his voice soaring as he becomes passionate about the subject matter.
And the other great plus of this album is the subject matter. Perry roams across a wide spectrum of topics, all drawn from the darker side of life. There is loneliness, corruption, inhumanity, isolation, ignorance and the sense of impending peril we face as we slowly destroy our planet. This is not an album to play at a wedding. This is an album which, if you listen to it, and by that I mean really listen to it, will make you sit up and think. You may even find your head slightly nodding in agreements with some of the sentiments Perry expresses.
Of the eight tracks on the album, all but one clock in at over six minutes. One of the key tracks is "The Bogus Man", a condemnation of the money culture which has bedevilled politics and turned politicians into unprincipled whores for cash, prepared to support any interest, even ones which go against the best interests of their constituents, in return for cash. Friends of mine in the States, in Italy, France and Australia can recognise this as much as I can. Other key tracks include "Utopia", the single drawn from the album and probably the best track on the album. It is also the shortest and displays Perry's vocals at their most diverse. "Inferno" has probably the best lyrics and the darkest mood, and deals with the loneliness and isolation endured by those who exist without social intercourse - as cold a lifestyle as the music portrays it to be. Finally, there is the album opener, "Babylon" which is a reworking of a track originally played by Dead Can Dance, on which Perry is seen at his most mystical.
So, having been positive about the album, why do I not rate it higher? Well, that is fairly easy to relate. The four tracks I have mentioned stand out because they have something notable about each. The other four tracks, without careful listening, tend to merge into a miasma of the indistinguishable sound. This is an album which takes some heavy duty listening to - I suggest you do it while doing absolutely nothing else and eliminate possible interruptions like the phone. If you can sit through the whole thing and listen intently to it for the whole 55 minutes then you are a better man that I. I can dip into this. I can occasionally find a time when it fits my mood - up to a point. But after a while it becomes too intense, both in terms of the lyrical content and the sound, for me to continue to absorb without doing some lasting damage to my psyche.
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on 2011-05-29 CharlesMartel Said:
One of my small collection of darkwave albums. Generally I prefer European darkwave which seems warmer while British darkwave has a clinical sound which feels cold and uninviting. "Ark" is a classic example of the latter.