Now here’s an oddity. Composed entirely of voice and violin (bar the odd Moog sound here and there), Dutch artist Diamanda La Berge Dramm‘s new record Chimp is a fascinating concept album that “compiles material from two books of Steven J Fowler’s: I Will Show You The Life Of The Mind (On Prescription Drugs) and The Great Apes. The juxtaposition of the brain and the monkeys were key to the album.”
She goes on to say: “To bring them together, I developed the idea of a doctor’s waiting room – where the beginning and end of the album take place. There is a TV in the corner showing a National Geographic episode about monkeys. During the middle section, we go inside and hang out with them.”
So now you have the context, what of the album itself? My first thoughts were Laurie Anderson meets Björk, and I was quite pleased with that reference until I picked up the press release and saw those very same two artists mentioned in the very first paragraph. Damn.
It’s such an accurate comparison though, yet still retaining its own individuality. It starts with the starkly pretty ‘Born‘, which although pleasant, is perhaps less interesting than the remainder of the album, serving merely as an introduction into the quirky ‘Horse Around‘, which is like the musical equivalent of what used to be called Tracker Books and eventually, online, as Twine Games.
But it’s the spoken word ‘Voices‘ that really makes you sit up and take notice. Diamanda’s voice almost sounds robotic here, over a monotone violin note interspersed with brief vignettes of crowds talking. It gives off a kind of dreamlike quality, like she’s putting you under hypnosis as a kind of therapy. Then ‘Jungle‘ is somehow deeply relaxing, making you feel as though you are, in fact, THERE in the wilds during a great rainfall, before ‘Chimp Is Who‘ comes across like an incantation by a sorceress, slightly off kilter, intense and full of mysterious intrigue.
‘Goriila CEO‘ is like a stripped down PJ Harvey number, which also reminds me a little of Erin McKeown, then ‘Bonobo’s On Time‘ furthers the jungle atmospherics effectively.
‘Orangut, The Orangutan‘ is like an old fifties folk ballad and then we have ‘More Voices‘ and ‘12 Ways‘ which are both akin to the relaxing music they put on in the background in massage rooms, accompanying scented candles and so forth. It’s all very therapeutic, albeit with surprisingly downbeat lyrics like “The consumption you fashion is you / The disappointment becomes you.”
‘Memory‘ closes Chimp in an otherworldly, strikingly beautiful manner and we’re left to reflect on what we’ve just heard, a pensive, cinematic piece that charms as much as it baffles. And I LIKE being charmed and baffled at the same time, so it’s all good!
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.
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