Penny Rimbaud featuring Japanther
Oh Magick Kingdom (Cold Spring; CD/DL)
Penny Rimbaud‘s Oh Magick Kingdom was originally released back in 2011 as a limited edition, self-financed run of only 60 discs. Featuring the NY duo of Ian Vanek and Matt Reilly – otherwise known as Japanther – this is finally seeing the light of day thanks to UK imprint Cold Spring. This is a half hour industrial jazz/rock opera from the former leader of the seminal British avant-punk noise/art outfit Crass (defunct circa ’84). This is also one of those rarities that is completely out of left field and impossible to pin down, but immensely listenable. Like a modern day fable chronicled through a 16th century looking glass split down the center.
Made up of a fiery Intro, eight acts and Outro the beginning is a speculative post car crash ambulance visit by a running river. The scene is set. Presented in Shakespearean voice and sad strings, it’s an emotive imaging from the top. Recorded at Dial House, co-produced and engineered by Tony Barber, the record includes a base of diverse female players: Louise Elliott (sax/flute), Kate Shortt (cello), Jennifer Maidman (bass/voice), Geraldine Doulet and Grace McGee (voices). Japanther offers a raucous underpinning of bass and percussion that balances classical leanings with a rock edge. Rimbaud is in stealthy, slightly surly voice as primary narrator here to deliver his mostly self-penned short story of forlorn broken romances, and other ships passing.
Elliott’s swirling mad sax enters and is indelible and keeps me wanting. Even lovers of spoken word and avid audio bookaholics would be well served crossing over into this serendipitous hard light. The instruments stream and stray in a constant, twisted flow of determination. “Of course there is no atonement” Rimbaud spits out with plumb assurance, which counter-balances the self-loathing follow-up about “the stifling ordinariness of this tale”. The speaker (presumably in third person) sees his abrupt reflection.
The female voices are the perfect foil for Rimbaud’s edgy testification. The repetitious bass/drum sample in Act 7 flows into Act 8 without pause, but with a fluttering sax and strings that thread the tale. This is, in reality, a long-form poem pieced together in truncated vignettes in which Rimbaud liberally borrows from Mr. Shakespeare. The Outro is an after midnight jazzy riff, bowing out with a forlorn wink to dark alleys and sleazy crime b-movies. I can somehow oddly hear ringing overtures from The Who’s Quadrophenia or Rocky Horror Picture Show‘s finale, Super Heroes – there’s this untapped thematic retro romancing of cinematic breadth coming off and rising like steam. Mr. Rimbaud leaves us with a sordid moral: “in that contrary kingdom what was lost to be found was found only to be lost“.
And so it goes, ouroboros.