Amber Spyglass
Accelerating Parcae
2004
B-



i know what you’re wondering (unless you have a better level of classical education than me, which is entirely possible). Parcae means ‘The Fates’, of course. Thank heavens for the internet, or I might have actually had to leave the house and hunt down a suitably large dictionary. Anything could have happened. The pigeons around here are malicious little plotters, I’m telling you. As ever, though, there could still be a lingering question mark over the correct pronunciation. Our good friend the phonetic dictionary can only do so much. If you’re not careful, you might end up like an old friend of mine who used to pronounce Samuel Pepys’ surname as something akin to ‘Pep-ees’. We’re not friends any more. Oh I’m just kidding! Of course we’re still friends. And as soon as he learns how to speak properly, I’ll let him out of the basement.

Speaking, or indeed singing, properly is not something that seems to give Kelly Godshall much bother. The (no doubt deceptive) effortlessness with which she conjures a deft range of pseudo-operatic performances adds an exciting vocal flair to this expressive collection of gently gothic compositions. Power without self-control is needlessly destructive, so it comes as a relief that softer, more sensuous tones are also strongly in evidence. Indeed, there are certain times when words are not even necessary—a sentiment Amber Spyglass clearly appreciate, as the rustling, rippling beauty of “Venus in the 8th House” amply demonstrates.

It’s the ever-present acoustic overtones of Accelerating Parcae that keep drawing me back. Despite having a vocalist who I’m convinced could hold her own, amidst a storm of heavy metal guitar craziness, the group have mostly erred on the side of a subdued, relaxing listen. Far from being dull, this creates an intriguing, near-constant juxtaposition between John DeGregorio’s refined fret-bothering and Godshall’s simmering intonations; forever threatening to bubble and spill over the cauldron of restraint. This state of semi-tension adds an atmosphere of the gloriously unexpected to tracks like “Red Dust”, or the All About Eve-tinged “Silent Ravine”.

Album favourites can be slippery, shifting things akin to the movements of excessively nervous fish, but “Pearls of Blue” refuses to leave the top of my internal list. Inventive construction leads to a changing rhythm and ever-altering pace--just the kind of thing to dispel any lingering worries about darkwave clichés. A faithful, slightly minimalist, cover of Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans” also slips snugly into the track listing without creating too much of a stir. An appropriate choice.

Not content with merely teaching us (ok, me) new words, Amber Spyglass have crafted a subtle twist in the darker pattern of musical fabric. Soft, yet forceful. You know, in that pesky way which forces reviewers to desperately come up with tragic similes resembling this one; Accelerating Parcae is exquisite but dominant, like that deadly field of poppies from The Wizard of Oz. I didn’t want to bring Judy Garland into this, but it happens. Unlike Judy Garland, this album won’t initially promise much but ultimately descends into a personal hell filled with nothing but tormented pain. Well OK, there’s a little bit of tormented pain. What else were you expecting?



Reviewed by: Peter Parrish
Reviewed on: 2004-08-12
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