My Scarlet Life - "Trypnotica" and "Danse Amour"
By Dan Century
I'm in a melancholy mood. One of my better
friends has moved to Texas and there is a very good chance I'll never see her
again. Sure, we'll keep in touch with E-mail, mostly forwarding jokes, but even
that will eventually come to an end. I'm sad. I'm very sad - which brings us to
my review of two excellent My Scarlet Life albums, Trypnotica and
Danse Amour. Both albums are sexy, passionate and aurally
They're not particularly sad albums and to the best of my
recollection there are no songs about loss or separation, but Pan, who lent me
these albums wants them back. It's going to be tough parting with these albums
My Scarlet Life is a dual-female fronted trip-hop/dance band
from Chicago. What I don't understand about this band is why aren't they bigger
than they are? Their music is great, they look great, and from what I hear,
their stage show is awesome. So what gives? Why isn't this band legendary?
Trypnotica either equates to
Trip-Hop + hypnotic or acid trip + hypnotic. I'm not sure which it is and I'm
not sure that it matters. I remember when Pan first lent me Trypnotica to
review (something like six months ago). Instantly, I was fascinated by the dual
lead singers Julie and Christy, even before I listened to the disc. They are
both disarmingly attractive women, and on the back cover of the disc they're
wearing cut-off jeans! Instantly, I'm in love.
Then I listened, and I was still enamoured. When I think of
all the female artists with beautiful voices - Kate Bush, Dead Can Dance,
Stereo Lab, Cocteau Twins - Julie and Christy are on par with the best of them,
yet their voices are unique. Christy and Julie's vocals compliment each other
well, while remaining distinct. Their lyrics are very personal, candid, often
sexy, and often too deep for the shallow pool writing this review to
fully absorb. What I can't relate to, I do appreciate for their honesty, tone
The music behind the vocals is remarkable as well - a rich,
diverse musical palette including guitars of every variety and sound, exotic
percussion, white noise, gorgeous, flowing synths, clever samples, bizarre
electronic squeals, breakbeats. Trypnotica is a mixture of many ideas and
styles - "dream pop," movie sound track, trip-hop, electronica, rock, exotica,
sweet pop, da funk, country, Middle Eastern and Asian melodies - yet the result
is positively unique, sensual, and sexy. At times I wish the music was more
aggressive. I wish their music had more of a bite to it.
Myst, the third track on the album, (yes, it's
spelled like the computer game) is pure beauty, exemplifying the full potential
of their talent. The vocals are so gorgeous they give me the chills, like they
come from the speakers and embrace me. Musically, this track moves gracefully
and gradually from ambience to trip-hop, framing the vocals perfectly.
Myst is My Scarlet Life at their best. The track This Fine Line
has a great Middle-eastern cinematic feel to it. Like a scene from a Lawrence
of Arabia movie if it was made today, maybe. A great example of their musical
flexibility. Valley of Rage, the ninth track, somehow mixes a
country-western feel with a polyrhythmic beat with unexpectedly epic results.
Very cool and very clever.
All in all, Julie and Christy's gorgeous voices and the
bands skill and musical dexterity make for some amazing, original music. Maybe
a little too ethereal and spiritual at times, but they're definitely true to
Danse Amour celebrates the ritual of
dance, allowing musicians and DJ's outside of My Scarlet Life to remix their
songs. The result: the most sonically diverse, intelligent and sexy dance album
of the year, and some of the best dance music to come out of Chicago in almost
a decade. Given Chicago's rich dance music history (Wax Trax, Chicago Trax, so
much great house and techno) that's a bold statement, but one I stand by. The
remixers show a great respect for the original songs and the band, while
cleverly augmenting the songs with new sounds, beats, tempos and atmospheres.
Of the two albums, this is my favorite.
Here's my take on a few of the best tracks:
The first track, Snakepit of Hell, is a deliciously
sexy house track that reminds me of the best tracks by the Lords of
Acid. An instant classic. I find myself listening to this track again and
again. It's definitely addictive. Remix by Immortal Savant.
Secrets is a bubbly, funky, yet sensual remix of
Myst by Josh Mroz. Part dance, part dream pop, it's a great mixture of
synths and diverse percussion. This track will sound great in any club.
Cloud Seeding, the third track, immediately reminds
me of Kate Bush, if only for the title. Part jungle, part ambiance, and it's on
par with Goldie's best work.
The remix of This Fine Line, re-titled
Layo-Layo, sticks close to the original, adding an almost subliminal
house beat and plenty of tasty 303-type sounds.
Listen to Here I Go Again and tell me that isn't one
of the coolest keyboard riffs you've ever heard. Mix that with a drum machine
that kicks at twice the tempo of the vocals and you get a track with a sound
that's just incredible. Another classic. I find myself skipping directly to
this track when I put on the disc.
The Valley of Rage remix by Chris Greene sticks close
to the original adding a lot of hypnotic percussion and effects. Sounds awesome
if you crank up the volume, relax and lose yourself in the music.
Sore Muscle remix by the Akira project is a hyper
distorted, super futuristic remix of Heartache. Imagine being pursued by some
sexy replicants in a scene from Blade Runner. So beautiful you almost want to
let them catch you, but if you do, you die.
Both these albums sound incredible amplified by decent
stereo, in a room with wood floors. Light some candles, some incense, smoke up
(if you're so inclined) and chill out with the ones you love. My Scarlet Life
is like a great secret that I want to share with everyone. If you like what
you've read in this review, definitely check them out.
I do wish they would rock out every now and then and put a
little rage into the music - why not. Harder guitars, bigger beats, crazier
sounds - maybe an EP or a side project like that.
I wish My Scarlet Life much success and I hope they play the
NYC area very soon!
5602 N. Ridge
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