[Reviewed by stark]
On “The Haunted Cabaret” the British project The Hare And The Moon along with Kentin Jivek from France take the listener on a journey not only on the footsteps of folk – pagan mysteries whispered from generation to generation on the British Isles, but also across the English Channel, exploring different times and different places but always hiding some more or less forgotten secret.
First, a brief intro and a street organ melody in a circus, or rather a haunted cabaret as the title suggests. I bet it’s 19th century Germany. Perhaps Wismar one day before the ghost ship with Nosferatu on board harboured in port. “The Liquorist” sparkles with all shades of black and white, and with strange shapes like from “The Cabinet of Dr Caligari” by Murnau. Theatrical recitations on ambient backgrounds may remind one of Mr Doctor from Devil Doll.
I loved the movie “Brotherhood of the Wolf” once. When recently I re-watched it, I started to notice its shortcomings. But it was the first time I heard about the legend of the Beast of Gevaudan, to which I believe the song “Gevaudan” refers. A French voice tells the story again, and the bleak soundscapes properly paint a picture of the grim 18th century French forests.
“Godhead” becomes more symphonic. Synthetic strings, choral parts, strange whispers and a powerful male voice sound pretty weird, as if individual tracks don’t always adequately tune with one another. Like the first attempts of an inexperienced alchemist trying to turn mercury into gold.
“Petite Mort” is perhaps the most mournful piece of the album, and at the same time – perhaps through its specific vocal manner – the closest to a musical fairy tale. With the ending not necessarily sounding like “they lived happily ever after”. It’s perhaps a bit too long, especially since it relies on the same looped string motive throughout.
Although “Das Narren Schiff” is a German title, the declamations are French once again. The title means “The Ship Of Fools”, so we have a reference to the Platonic conception present for centuries in European culture. Because of the language, I can’t say how the song refers to the idea from a literary point of view; musically it’s quite minimal and somehow oriental. Maybe it’s just my imagination?
The last song is called “Black Beard” and of course it’s the legend of the famous British pirate. This song probably comes closest to the aesthetics of spoken word compositions, because the non-verbal layer can hardly be called music – it is rather distant, unidentified noises accompanying the sounds of the waves.
“The Haunted Cabaret” has its undeniable charm. Not exactly from a technical side, because this one is quite simple and not particularly surprising. But the musicians are able to narrate their stories and build an atmosphere using minimal resources. Therein lies the album’s strength, not in rich arrangements and catchy melodies. I have a feeling that they might as well sit in a rocking chair and tell mysterious tales to the accompaniment of a crackling fireplace. And it would work out as well.