The Narcissus Pool - Rehearsing For Dementia

Back in September, The Narcissus Pool sent me a copy of "Rehearsing For Dementia", and I've been meaning to review it ever since. Sorry it took so long!

First of, this is not an album you stick on as casual background and then ignore. It demands to be listened to, and you end up obeying. It's also nicely packaged, my copy including a promotional beer-mat as well as the CD itself.

Secondly, the disclaimer - the sleeve doesn't include the lyrics, and I always have been appalling at separating sounds (ask anyone who's ever tried to have a conversation with me in a club!), so I'm more or less reviewing this purely on the music. Apologies in advance if I've got anything horribly wrong!

There are 11 tracks...

... and then there's the extra bit. If you have a copy and you've not done so yet, play the superb final track "Gutter", and let it keep going after the end. Well worth it. :-)

Ok, to the tracks themselves:

1. Rehearsing For Dementia.
The album opens with the title track, which starts with rising and falling plucked notes over a classic synth backing, while voices speak in medical terms in the background. The track is restrained, formal, and beautifully put together.

2. Culture Jamming.
A good bit faster, strong guitar sound, and a catchy-but-dark chorus, which stops nicely back down to the verse structure afterwards. This really grabbed me on first listening. Slightly odd finish, where it cuts out where you don't expect it to.

3. Alien Nation.
Starts with piano effects, sound levels rise in the background, more voiceover, and then plunges into a very deep, heavy, kind of half-speed EBM effect, with distorted notes flowing in a very trad style around the vocals. The chorus is even heavier, lots of layering going on.

4. Alan Smithee Presents.
"It's a very demanding role, but it's the role that will make you great as an actress. Consider it a sacrifice for your art". Sharp, moody guitar, catchy tune, and then the chorus - "You're not listed in the credits, you're just some hasbeen", delivered with lots of intensity, with a voice that reminds me vaguely of Twinkle from the Ghost Of Lemora, but darker.

5. This Is Not For You.
Opens to sounds of the ER, bleeping monitors, etc, which fade out into the main body of the track. Again, slow, fairly heavy, interesting rhythms, lots of intensity, and was that a faintly middle-eastern trace I noticed under the dark-landscape theme? Again, a track that makes you want to listen in detail.

6. One Night Standard.
Probably my favourite track of the whole album. Bit faster than most of what's gone before, interesting changes of key, a fairly up-beat momentum develops and the mix just keeps adding features that work, it positively storms along to the end of the first chorus, before dropping back only to immediately kick up again. Think I'll be requesting this one at the Sheep.

7. The Haldol Shuffle.
Deep, intense music and distant vocals, leaving you with an impression of intensity and distance at the same time, all the while with an odd tappy beat going on at the top end. Another one that would work well on a decent club's sound system methinks.

8. Nobody's Fool.
This has echoes of one of the earlier tracks, and manages to remind me vaguely of the musical intro to "Terminator 2" of all things! Again, it starts slow and then gets very intense, layers of guitar and synth enveloping the listener. Another favourite, I find myself changing invisible lightbulbs just sitting listening to it. Sadly, even the two- step is impossible in this room!

9. (I Am) The Quitter.
Fast, powerful and intense, this is a real pile-driver of a track, and another that grabs you and drags you along with it.

10. Without Chemicals He Points...
Here the pace drops again, we're back to deep melodies and interlacing sounds and vocals, with a deep background.

11 Gutter.
Interesting intro, slow deep synth notes echoing round some vast hall, vague reflections of Ultravox at their peak somewhere in the background. Phill's voice comes in, and the track very slowly starts to build up. Lots of depth and interesting sounds in the background, kind of slow, flowing, dark synth, it captures something deep. Quite a way to end the album!

So, mostly slow and deep, but with some real "go for it" stuff in the second half, and interesting both at the opening and closing. All in all, a fascinating and well put together collection of tracks. I'll definitely be including one or two of these in future playlists.

And grateful thanks to The Narcissus Pool for sending me a copy. And I still owe you guys some stamps!

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