CD Review

My Scarlet Life - "Trypnotica" and "Danse Amour"

By Dan Century

My Scarlet LifeI'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 beautiful...

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 too.

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?


TrypnoticaTrypnotica 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 and poetry.

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 themselves.

Danse Amour

Danse AmourDanse 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!

DivaNation Records
5602 N. Ridge
Chicago, IL

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