CD Review

Deathwatch Beetle Repairman - "Hollow Fishes"

By Marcus Pan

Hollow FishesWhat amazes me most about the work of the Deathwatch Beetle Repairman is his amazing ability to cross musical styles and genres so naturally that it leaves me stunned. Many cross-cultural and ethnic beats and sounds make up the tracks on "Hollow Fishes." Virtually every song takes you to another period in history or another cultural crossroad. It is such an unusual and eccentric CD that I would be hard pressed to point to somebody and say, "You'll love this!" It almost sounds like a compilation CD in the way DBR comes out sounding like a completely different musical outfit every time a new track is cued up.

DBR went for a very minimalist sound on most of the tracks. Highlighting most of the songs are the drum and vocal tracks, winding through anywhere from an American Indian thumping sound to a more subtle and slow hollow beating. But always it is there…and DBR must have a few dozen drum instruments around their place. You can distinctly hear toms, sets, bongos…name it. If this was electronically done I salute him. If it wasn't, I still salute him. The drums make many of the tracks their own entity. Vocals are anywhere from chat-like to whispered, and always meld with the drums and background of the songs so well you can close your eyes and see him speak to you.

"Hollow Fishes" has eight tracks. It opens with the nominal "Dream of the Hollow Fishes." The synthesized background of this piece is extraordinary and ghostlike, floating your mind underwater in the deepest ocean. The drums are hollow and thumping, sounding like what you would expect if someone were to actually be playing them underwater. "Drying in the Sun," the second track, has an almost Italian sound to it, the first heard guitars seem to be reminiscent of old-style Sicilian music you'd expect to hear accompanying the latest book by Mario Puzo or behind an on-screen scene featuring Marlon Brando. One of my favorite tracks, the fourth, is "Season of the Dead." The keyboards begin the song with an almost carnival-like feel. The subject matter of the song is very morbid and dark, but his vocals on this track are surprisingly light. Almost mockingly sarcastic toward the subject matter. I think that's why I enjoy it so much. "Violet and Green," the track following this one, takes you to yet another culture. You can almost feel the wind in your hair as Aladdin's carpet takes you on another trip. The flutes add to the Arabian guitar playing and you can hear the castanets, or what I perceive to be castanets, clicking off the rhythm as the vocals spread out around you. The song has very little in the way of background other than the guitar, drums and clicks. The simplicity of the song itself adds much to its beauty.

Following these aforementioned tracks are trips elsewhere throughout the mind of the beetle. "Shrine of Lilacs," a beautiful name for a song in its own right before I had even listened to it, is nearly a spoken word piece surrounded by that underwater sound and thumping rhythm similar to the first, "Dream of…" track. Track 7, "King of the Rooks," is a droning, riveting piece with more of the Arabian flair you heard in "Violet and Green." Except this time it comes out blaring and loud; not a carpet ride. He takes his vocals at irregular intervals and bends it, just enough, to keep you guessing and wondering just where it is he is taking you here. "This place was my home, but your sin is my grave!" is the repetitive chorus of this song, a carnival-like setting coming through the synths as it is spoken through the speakers with just the right amount of guttural roughness. The mixture of carnival-like synthesizer and Arabic guitaring in this song is, well, downright weird. A strange mixture. The CD ends with "The Carny of Mr. Dark." This piece brought me back to the carnival, again, but this time I distinctly saw the movie "Something Wicked This Way Comes" playing in my head. It's a powerful instrumental piece, something you'd hear from the pipe organs in the basement as you stepped through the portcullis of Ravenloft or some other fantastic castle.

I wish I could distinctly tell you "If you liked so-and-so, you'll like DBR." But I can't. The very basis of the CD, it's underwater eccentricity and many different settings and genres, absolutely forbids it. Makes it impossible. But what I can tell you is that if your mind is open enough to the weirdness of the world, Deathwatch Beetle Repairman can take you to more places in the space of just over thirty seven minutes than you've been in a very long time. Sometimes, you SHOULD repair what isn't broken…

Contact Information:
Mail: Deathwatch Beetle Music, 102 Concord Ave., Toronto ON, Canada, M6H 2P3