Poetry has been called, amongst other things, the voice of the soul. So what, then, can we make of music that is formed and inspired by poetry? That is the very question I wrestle with now in the wake of the latest Flowers for Bodysnatchers EP “Fall the Night,” inspired by the poetry of Nathan Hassall. It is everything one could expect of Flowers for Bodysnatchers, it has dark, lyrical piano tunes that traipse back and forth from shadow to shadow while field recordings of dreary cemeteries and forest walkways fill the spaces of air in between. No doubt it is beautiful, the most tugs at the heart at the same time that it warns of dangers. This is the odd contradiction that one finds in every album from Flowers for Bodysnatchers, it is the hallmark of his creations. They excite, they terrify, they intrigue, and they alarm. I have never heard another piano based dark ambient project that has this quality. The piano is a strong instrument, perhaps the strongest of them all when it comes to portraying human emotion and none do it better than Flowers for Bodysnatchers. Why then, do I seem to be at such a loss for words when I think about Fall the Night? It is brilliant of course, haunting and ethereal but there something else there. There is some added element to sets Fall the Night apart from everything else.
The entire album is stripped down, the sound we hear is authentic and brutal, all the hard edges of the piano, the drone, and the field recordings are there, they cut at the listener, daring them to come closer. This album, more so than any other Flowers for Bodysnatchers releases I have had the pleasure of hearing, frightens me. I am not saying the album scares me or that the sound is bad, but somewhere in my hindbrain something is telling me to run. Something instinctual and primal.
Also, Fall the Night is the most industrial I have ever seen Flowers for Bodysnatchers, the sounds are steely and hard, the static is electrical. When I think of Flowers for Bodysnatchers I think of natural recordings, forests and trees and animal life. On Fall the Night it’s all turned around. The world is a world of metal and decay, of rusted life. Yet there is life there. It might not be something any one of us recognizes as life but life still it is.
Since Fall the Night is based upon the poetry of Nathan Hassall (which I have not yet at the pleasure of reading through) I will look at each song as representative of a separate poem, self-contained and self-sustaining.
The first is the most like Flowers for Bodysnatchers, the sound is natural and hypnotic, it lulls the listener into a false sense of security and then rips it away while displaying the true power of the piano. This instrument alone has the ability to make the listener feel every single range of emotions and Flowers for Bodysnatchers knows exactly how to use it. In the hands of Duncan Ritchie, the piano is a weapon. He takes us through a cemetery in the first track, shows the beauty of the stone megaliths there and helps us wax philosophic about the dead and the memories they have left us with. Then the song turns on its head and shows the listener the decay and the rot, the glorification of the dead at the expense of the living. The sound turns from hypnotic and peaceful to terrifying and unrelenting in the blink of an eye and none of the power is lost. The impact on the listener is profound, the meaning of the song cannot be lost.
The second track is almost alien; it feels as though we have been taken, or ripped rather, from our own knowable world to a place that we cannot hope to understand or belong. It’s a world of metal and sharp objects. It’s the laughter of the machine as it triumphs over humanity. Beasts and birds and trees are different now, changed at their very core to something completely unrecognizable. There is no music here on this track, there is only industrial sound and wrath. The drone is remarkably subdued but it only heightens the tension on the album, it makes the listener keenly aware of all that is going on, straining to hear against the grain of harsh noise. It’s an ominous track, a subtle terror that grabs the listener before they have a chance to escape from it.
The last track is by far my favorite. It’s eerie and unrelenting. The very sound and music itself is poetic somehow, the piano is back playing a very mellow tune. That tune ought to frighten the listener who by now should now that if something soft and soothing is here then a rush of terror is not far behind. And Fall the Night delivers with a trumpet sound like none that I have ever heard it’s almost Lovecraftian in its strangeness. It sounds nothing at all like any horn I have ever heard and yet instinctively I know that it’s a horn. With such dire ambiance one could almost expect it to be the horn but alas there is nothing. Behind the horn call there is nothing but static and silence. It’s unsettling to look into the face of the void like that, it rends at the sanity and stoicism of the listener, tempting it with a call from the abyss.
This album, though inspired by poetry, has become a poetry all of its own. Fall the Night was the album I was not expecting to get to hear before the year was out. I suspected that such a gem could be carved by Flowers for Bodysnatchers but I think I would see it so soon. It’s a pristine, smoky gem, another in Duncan Ritchie’s neo classical dark ambient crown. This EP shows us why he is a master of his craft, he takes beautiful words which on their own have no meaning outside of the poet’s intent and crafts them into sound, giving the words a life of their own beyond that of poet or the musician and leaves it to the listener to decide where to find the meaning.
Listen and support!