Monday, January 9, 2017

Portion Control vs Full-On Lunchin'

Some albums have exactly the right balance of pop and weird.  A magical convergence of diverse sounds and lyrics, True Love Kills the Fairy Tale by the Casket Girls is just that sort of album.  The LP is a lush assortment of bright pop synths with a somber gothic tone, highlighted by twin female lead vocals that shudder in their synchronicity.  Think 60s' girl groups, pulsing along with a nice dollop of retro self-awareness.  The production is very sharp and often loaded with scuzzy keyboards.  A dichotomy, crisp and dirty at the same time.  Even the lyrics try to be in two places at once: "We are the preacher, we are the choir, nobody is getting any higher" from the mesmerizing opening track, "Same Side."  Also, "You and I are like water and fire.  Opposites only exist with each other," from the standout track "Chemical Dizzy."

While some people don't give a damn about packaging and album art, every time this LP comes off of the shelf it's a joy to experience, as the packaging of is absolutely gorgeous.  It's wowy!  The outer sleeve is a starry sky-scape, with an O'Keefe palate and central to this is a gigantic white symbol, like an ancient math formula.  The inner sleeve is just black paper which perfectly sets up to reveal the LP, on tie-die pale blue/lime green.  This thing glows in light in the most eerie way.  A lovely font adorns the entire package.  You will want to stare.

These VVers were fortunate to pick this up at a Graveface Records Label Tour.  The concert at Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe (yes, such a place exists) featured choreographed dance moves, a legit light show, matching outfits for the band, masks, wigs, the whole nine.  For a small venue it's fantastic to be that up close and personal with that level of performance.  After the show, VVer #1 went to chat with Mr. Graveface (also the keyboardist/co-songwriter in Casket Girls) about the vinyl and other offerings, of which were many.  A friend had already purchased the newest LP, so VVer #1 got a recommendation on what was "the best one" and home came this album.  Also picked up a split Casket Girls/Stardeath White Dwarf (co-headliners of the tour) because, well, duh.

One very noticeable thing about the music on True Love Kills the Fairy Tale is just how much fuzz there is.  Too much distortion?  Is that possible?  Is this a symptom of digital recording transferred to analog vinyl production?  Is this just what the band sounds like (live, they indeed bring the fuzz, but in a good way)?  At times it's like the band is surrounded in a cocoon.  After a few spins the VVers realized that their ears were exhausted by a few specific spots on the record.  What is going on here?  Upon a tiny shred of research, a new term appeared: Inner Groove Distortion.  It's hard to explain without getting overly technical, but the gist is that the center grooves on a platter (figure the last tracks on each side of a typical LP) play with less clarity.  The inference is that because the rings at the center have less diameter, the needle has more work to do to track the grooves correctly.  This can become more of an issue if the songs have a lot going on (lots of instrumentation, high loudness, excess bass) and can lead to things sounding worse off.  What other record comes to mind when thinking about distorted fuzzed out tracks towards the end of a record but Queen II.  Is this the answer to why "The Seven Seas of Rhye" makes VVer #2 run screaming to turn off the record on both her pressings of this album?!  Does this offer an explanation for why sound conscious artists are more into the practice of putting out double LPs?  Possibly, and the VVers will look at those in a new light instead of immediately dismissing them as taking up too much room on the record shelf.  Music with this much layering in it suffers unless you happen to be in possession of a top of the line needle/cartridge/turntable set-up.  In the case of True Love Kills the Fairy Tale it's not unbearable, but it does encourage the listener to take breaks in between side A and B, otherwise you might get fuzzy bummed.  That is a real term.  For this LP, take a little break between sides, like waiting twenty minutes after the meal to have dessert, you'll be glad you did.

Much of True Love Kills the Fairy Tale is like a chaotic dream; wave after wave shimmering back and forth over voices in steady decomposition.  It can be a lot for the ears to take at times.  This is not an excuse to stay away.  This is a warning that the rewards of the album take some patience.  Dive in all at once at your own peril.

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