Dead Raven Choir - "But Inside They Are Ravening Wolves"
(Last Visible Dog 2001)
From Aural Innovations #19 (April 2002)
Dead Raven Choir is an incarnation of the digger Smolken and a mysterious woman whose name is not uttered. Smolken was originally brought up in Cracow, Poland before leaving for political reasons. He and his family eventually ended up in Texas, US in 1986. It was here after dabbling in assorted ventures that he later formed the original Dead Raven Choir with a stripper. He informs that only half a song was complete before she vanished… So in 1998 he exhumed the name and was joined by the mysterious woman to record music that he describes as an intense and barbaric form of psyche-folk.
As I listen, I make no sense of it at all; it sounds like an opera to me. I can picture a theatrical nature in the songs, and I could not quite understand the words at first, later I could. I am informed that all the words are poems wrote by the poets W.B Yeats, A.A. Milne and Hillaire Belloc. What I can say is that the whole CD rolls with the same vibe throughout. It is dark and it is twisted in ways indescribable. I cannot think of sound a'likes to give you a better gist of what the music is. All that I can think of is dark opera music with its slow story like patterns, and its dark tales of woe. A lot of it is Piano, Guitar and a bowed Double Bass; together they give that eerie feel as they act out the play.
The songs or movements have titles like 'Hound-Voice', 'The Black Tower' and 'Epitaph to the Politician Himself' to name but a few. All are slow and deathlike, all are passages of a long gone age, and all are spoken by Smolken with qualities of insanity. I like the idea of using poetry to express a plight and Dead Raven Choir certainly do that. I must say that it is a million miles away from space rock, but it has that darkened edge that gives a touch of mystery to the whole project.
Dead Raven Choir produces theatrical style music with a slow shadowy nature, they work their pieces in sombre mood and I would say that it is awash in sadness in certain ways. The sound is dark and spirited as it moves through emotion, the end result being a cross between peasant folk and operatic darkness. An interesting combination if that is your want? I myself found it too similar with no apparent change in mood or style. Dead Raven Choir has 3 more releases available on Last Visible Dog and DarkBlack MuzikProducktion. So if you are intrigued check them out.
For more information you can visit the Dead Raven Choir web site at: http://wolves.tamu.edu/.
Contact via snail mail c/o P.Klima; 1502 Merry Oaks; College Station, TX 77840.
Reviewed by Albert Pollard