Jul 2023 05

Album CoverBlack Nail Cabaret & Friends
Album: Woodland Memoirs
Category: Avant-garde / Experimental
Label: Dependent Records
Release Date: 2023-05-26
Author: Stitch Mayo (StitchM)


In a musical landscape that often craves conformity, Black Nail Cabaret stands tall as an unapologetically daring duo, consistently defying expectations with their synthpop noir compositions. Woodland Memoirs is a no less remarkable addition to the band’s quietly prolific catalog and is a fearless endeavor in reinterpretations of songs from previous releases. The album features several additional musicians to create a captivating and fresh experience for listeners; among them are Tamás Számvéber on guitar, saxophonist Márton Barják, and drummer Péter Laskay.

From the very first track, it’s evident that the duo has approached this project with utmost care and artistic vision. “Diamond Dogs” opens with a crisp ostinato in a smooth call-and-response. The instrumental layers weave in and out and provide thoughtful accompaniment to not only Emke’s voice, but each other. It’s a very rare balance that continues throughout the album, particularly in “Sister Sister.” The melodic saxophone lines and expressive playing lend a dynamic and distinctive character, elevating certain tracks to new heights of richness. “My Casual God” undergoes a remarkable transformation, recast with an indie vibe that adds a refreshing twist to the song’s lyrical themes. With a tone that veers on upbeat, the track takes on a bittersweet quality, infusing the lyrics with a sense of hopeful melancholy. However, it is Emke’s voice that remains the centerpiece of the track, exuding a mesmerizing allure and commanding presence; her vocal delivery carries an intoxicating blend of vulnerability and strength, effortlessly navigating the shifting emotions of the song. In the reinterpretation of “No Gold,” Számvéber’s creative decision to mute his own riffs adds a subtle yet integral layer of complexity that teeters on the edge of flamenco, creating a sense of anticipation and tension that enhances the overall experience and provides a sense of vibrant intimacy. The delicate interplay of restraint and raw power in “Veronica” is an impressive feat, a sultry delight that expertly balances sensuality with a lingering edge of angst. Laskay’s impeccable drumming provides a rhythmic foundation that drives the track forward with urgency, while the driving grungy chords hint at an imminent explosion. It’s then almost jarring to reach “Bête Noire” and hear something close to the original synth line.

Overall, the album’s cohesive atmosphere, sometimes reminiscent of trendy jazz radio, is a victory lap, particularly with the challenge of striking that delicate balance between preservation and reinterpretation. Even listeners with a dislike of brass will likely find something to appreciate here. At numerous intervals, the band’s darkwave and synthpop influences are perfectly inverted into something different and captivating that breathes new life into familiar melodies. Woodland Memoirs feels like a beautiful necessity, a flexing of the wings, a push (if only a sidestep) into a different direction, and an exquisite aural delight.
Track list:

  1. Diamond Dogs
  2. Sister Sister
  3. Comfort Zone
  4. Dora
  5. My Casual God
  6. No Gold
  7. Veronica
  8. Steril
  9. Rhythm X
  10. Satisfaction
  11. Bête Noire

Black Nail Cabaret
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Dependent Records
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