Spirit Stories, Joolz Denby's 2008 release, saw the poet, author, artist and tattooist team up with her long-term collaborator, New Model Army's frontman Justin Sullivan. One track on this CD, the gorgeously apocalyptic Saddleworth, which evokes the end of the world beautifully, is one of my all-time favourite texts.
For The Black Dahlia, Joolz has collaborated with the dreamy Mik Davis, ex-frontman of New York Alcoholic Anxiety Attack and now one half of the darkly psychedelic Utopian Love Revival.
I am not one for downloads, as for me, an album is an ensemble in which the music, the sleeve, the artwork all combine to make one unique entity. All together, the different elements tell a story; they chronicle the journey towards the ultimate achievement: the object you hold in your hand and the music you listen to. It records the emotions, the hours of work that have been poured into it.
The packaging of The Black Dahlia collector's CD is fantastic, with 12 lyric cards featuring Joolz's unique artworks on both sides. We are being spoilt!
This is an extremely interesting CD for it feels accomplished and experimental at the same time, with a multitude of sound effects and background noises that add to the atmosphere(s) of the poems. Mik Davis's music follows the themes of the texts and the lyrics, and adds texture, layering and atmosphere to them.
Some of the tracks wouldn't feel out of place on one of the early industrial albums.
The album starts with a trip to the outer Space, with Joolz's voice disembodied and the vibrating guitar in the background tearing through the silence of the "cold and deadly space"; this definitely possesses an otherworldly quality.
But we come back to earth and its earthy pleasures with track 2, Music I Could See, a sensual tribute to music with a Gypsy flavour, a veritable melee of senses
Like fragile tattered scarves the music
As often with Joolz's work - and as in life - there is darkness and there is light; the latter comes from Nature, its breathtaking beauty and its magical quality, as described in Geisha, in which Nature is describes as a beautiful woman - or rather a Goddess, perhaps? - coloured in with the most vivid colours of the changing seasons. And this wise and powerful entity is evoked again in the soothing Mother of Sorrows.
Somewhere else, in Desert Poem, we are seduced by the mysteries of a far away, exotic land. We are hypnonised by the tribal beat in the background and the occult tales of Native American legends.
Tribes are often mentioned in Joolz's work; humans don't seem to have shaken off their instincts after all those years of so-called evolution. Tribes are still present at the very core of our society, from urban gangs and sub-cultures to classes and sub-classes. Barbarians is a stupendous homage to that tribal instinct, mixing contemporary social imagery with magic and ancestral beliefs and a minimalist, distorted, metallic music that slowly creeps over you...
Very much like in Joolz's novel "The Curious Mystery of Miss Lydia Larkin and the Widow Marvel", there is magic in this CD. And like in the book, Magic hides in the dirty folds of our cities and makes our mundane lives bearable. In the bewitching Voodoo Voodoo, the author says:
Magic isn't casting spells,
And Tattoo Magic gives the ritual of tattooing some magical powers.
But the writer - as well as over 80% of this country's population - lives and works in an urban environment and excels at describing its savage, filthy, artificial and lifeblood-sucking quality.
Johnny has a biting, distorted electric guitar that reflects the death-wish and brutal life of an addicted young man; Gang Girl pays tribute to the heady lifestyle of the old biker gangs and The Black Dahlia is a stern, heartbreaking telling of the urban legend of The Black Dahlia. You can feel Joolz's anger and also some tenderness towards the "girls like the Black Dahlia" while the acoustic guitar softly plays in the background, as if to cradle the victims so they can sleep at last.
But then, An Angel appears in the unforgiving city, asking men to mend their ways... Much like in Saddleworth, an almost mythical event disturbs the frenetic pace and grim reality of our technology-obsessed lives to reveal to us our inadequacies.
An angel came to the city - you can see it on the internet,
This album is a real success, full of true beauty and emotions.
I think therefore I write.
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