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Reviews of Plague Songs

Plague Songs is one of the most audacious releases for this year. It is also a reflection of grey attitudes which have been put to musical diversity with great tact.

http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/music/reviews/article1769760.ece

Album: Various Artists 
Plague Songs, 4AD

Reviewed by Andy Gill

Published: 29 September 2006

The best ideas are usually the simplest. Like this project: ten artists' depictions in song of the ten Biblical plagues. The skill lies in choosing the right performers, and nearly all these are perfect for their plague. Rapper Klashnekoff relates the first plague, "Blood", to violent undercurrents in modern society; King Creosote's "Relate the Tale" (frogs), Eno & Robert Wyatt's "Flies", Imogen Heap's "Glittering Cloud" (locusts) and Laurie Anderson's "The Fifth Plague" (death of livestock) all sympathise with the poor plague agents so abused by God; and Stephin Merritt's "The Meaning of Lice" incorporates into its perky electro-pop a theological argument of droll intelligence. Scott Walker evokes "Darkness" through an acappella aria of suitable opacity, while Rufus Wainwright draws on personal bereavement for the blues ballad "Katonah" (death of the firstborn). Oddest of all is The Tiger Lillies' "Hailstones", in which melancholy piano and bowed saw accompany a tale of a man taking Class A drugs in a tin shed whilst hail beats a tattoo on the roof, then leaving the shack and being struck dead by a huge hailstone. And the moral is?

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http://lifestyle.timesofmalta.com/article.php?id=5677

PLAGUE SONGS
Various Artistes, (4AD)

4 AD is known as a label that has time and again, hosted some of the most cutting-edge and at times weird talents, ranging from The Cocteau Twins to former pop star Scott Walker. And this time, the record label has come up with a project inspired by the 10 biblical plagues. At face value, it may not seem to be an easy project to undertake, however, 4AD proves that almost 30 years since its inception, it still has the knack and the flair to choose the right performers to interpret what is arguably a very morose subject. The great thing about this concept album is that it relates these events within the context of this day and age.

The songs were originally commissioned by a British arts organisation called Artangel as part of The Margate Exodus, a day of live events and a film directed by Penny Woolcock. Exodus Day took place on September 30, when the seaside town of Margate in Kent was transformed into the setting for a contemporary retelling of the Book Of Exodus. The day of live events highlighted dramatic moments in the film realised as a public event - it included Pharoah Mann's victory election speech and the burning of Antony Gormley's Waste Man. In the evening a concert of Plague Songs was performed in Margate's Winter Gardens by talented local singers and musicians.

Rapper Klashnekoff relates the first plague, Blood, to violent undercurrents in modern society. King Creosote's Relate the Tale (frogs), Eno & Robert Wyatt's Flies, Imogen Heap's Glittering Cloud (locusts) and Laurie Anderson's The Fifth Plague (death of livestock) all sympathise with the poor plague agents. Stephen Merritt's electro-pop take on The Meaning of Lice shows another idiosyncratic aspect in this collection but Scott Walker is the weirdest of the lot. His contribution, Darkness, evokes an opaque a capella aria, not far removed from his recent solo album, Drift.

On the other hand, Rufus Wainwright delivers a sad but fine blues ballad entitled Katonah (death of the firstborn) and The Tiger Lillies' complement Wainwright with the melancholic Hailstones, which gets all the more poignant with the use of the bowed saw. It should not sound surprising when one considers that this song relates to a tale of a man who is abusing drugs in a tin shed, during a hailstorm, and then oddly enough, is struck dead by a huge hailstone.

Plague Songs is one of the most audacious releases for this year. It is also a reflection of grey attitudes which have been put to musical diversity with great tact.

 

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