THE LEGENDARY PINK DOTS
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US CD Roir RUS8299
self released of Bandcamp (not remastered)
With thanks to: Alena, Astrid, Charles, Chris, Jon, Lisa and Lucas.
Recorded at Studios Lent, Limburgia and Vondel, January to March 2006.
Sing while you may… krezhtazna 459459…
Your Children Placate You From Premature Graves is The Legendary Pink Dots’ 25th anniversary album (and in the running for best album title ever). It’s hard to believe a quarter century has passed since the Pink Dots first unearthed their complex vision where fate and whimsy cast stones at each other on some hazy, polluted playground. LPD’s unusual legacy of psychedelia, industrial gloom, and textural madness has made them a constant presence on the innovative fringes of cult music, and has earned them near-universal respect from critics and peers. It was this legacy that shaped much of the album:
The actual theme of “legacy”, “the consequence of past and present action on the future”, has consciously informed much of this release. In some ways, it’s been a central-core-theme of all our songwriting these last 25 years. -Phil ‘The Silverman’ Knight
Twenty-five years later, the Dots have hardly paused for a breath. Edward Ka-Spel, The Silverman and company (Niels Van Hoornblower, Raymond Steeg & returning member Martijn de Kleer), still make boundlessly weird, beautifully disturbing music.
This is an album about mortality & immortality, about time ticking away mercilessly, about seizing the moment and damning the consequences. Your victims are lining up on both sides of the corridor, unborn yet forgiving. We are all pitifully human and we all want to take everything with us at the end, but there is no end…just a darkening endless horizon… -Edward Ka-Spel
In addition to the 25th anniversary album, the Dots will embark on a massive North American tour this June to celebrate this landmark occasion. Then they’ll disappear into the ether…until their next haunting. -ROIR
Faux spookiness of the Count Floyd/Count Chocula variety is everywhere; just turn on MTV2, or head to your local counterculture shlock shop for a dose of unintentionally hilarious “goth” aesthetics. But for 25 years, the London-via-Amsterdam band Legendary Pink Dots have proffered a rarer, truer kind of darkness. Your Children Placate You from Premature Graves–which is approximately the band’s 28th, or 46th release, depending on whether you count live albums and EPs–is subtly, eclectically and actually disturbing. On “No Matter What You Do” unfussy singer Edward Ka-Spel chews on religion’s snagging edges–“Jesus loves the little children, even when they torch the cat”–over spacey Anglo-dub and storms of feedback. “Stigmata, Pt. 4” dredges up a palpably suicidal atmosphere from a slow piano ditty, synth whirls and vocals that constantly shift proximity in the mix–whispering in your ear one second, then talking over the phone, then from the other end of the room–like a manic conscience. Over 11 tracks, there’s avant-jazz, midtempo industrial, Bedouin horns, melancholy Syd Barrett-ish folk and inert electro-pop recalling late-’80s Wire. The sum total is something creepier, and richer, than anything with black mascara. – Andrew Marcus, Dallas Observer
“Since 1980, LPD have created some of the most enigmatic and challenging compositions in modern music. The uniqueness of their work is due in large part to its omnivorous ability to consume and transform a variety of styles into a new, cohesive entity. The introverted folk of Nick Drake may be found here, as well as the graphic cyberpunk nightmares of Frank Tovey (Fad Gadget), not to mention the rhythmic permutations of Philip Glass. From Beefheart to Brahms, the sources of LPD’s quicksilver soundscapes are myriad. What holds them all together is Ka-Spel’s dense lyricism and grim obsessions.” -ROLLING STONE
“Proceeding out of a hodgepodge of gloomy/fringey/hippie antecedents–Joy Division, Syd Barrett, Faust, etc.–but adding a classical sensibility, involuted mythology, found-sound sampling weirdness, plus all sorts of stylistic cross-mingling and experimentation, Edward Ka- Spel (vocals, lyrics, keyboards), Phil Knights (aka The Silver Man; keyboards) and a shifting collection of associates have turned the Legendary Pink Dots into an open-ended adventure. Although certainly prone to enigmatic risk-taking, the enormously resourceful LPD is a mellifluous and dynamically restrained proposition: this is one dip into the rock netherworld that won’t send you running for cover. The lyrics, however–a disturbing onslaught of doom, violence and apocalypse–are a different story.” -TROUSER PRESS
The Dots’ music is as difficult to describe as it is enjoyable and moving to hear. Yes, they thrive on psychedelic industrogroove dabbed and fringed with experimentation; yes, the irrepressible Edward Kah-spell’s lyrics can be dark, mystical, deeply and hauntingly personal in detailing the most intimate moments and the emotions underpinning them. None of this speaks to the stark simplicity that defines the band’s 25-year legacy. No matter how intricate or complex the sound world gets at any moment, a few scraps of melody keeps everything grounded, a repeated rhythm anchors two or three broken chords. The Residents achieved this. It was also a Kraftwerk trademark. But the Dots have now taken the aesthetic to the next level.
Your Children Placate You from Premature Graves is the group’s 25th anniversary album, and it certainly captures all the weirdness, darkness and playfulness that have graced its daunting discography. Yet, there is a refinement of texture and sound manipulation evident here that I only appreciated fully after experiencing the disc on headphones. “Stigmata Part 4” bubbles with life far below the surface, distant voices and other nameless things coloring the spaces between chords and Kah-spell’s dangerously compassionate whispers. “A Silver Thread” is all repetitive sub-bass muscle against slithery saxophone, the two components threatening to tear each other apart as the musique concrete ventures of earlier albums become more integral parts of the song structures.
Lyrically, strides have also been made; themes from the 9/11-inspired king’s horses/king’s men diptych resurface in “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” where the dual perspectives of a foreigner and what might be a Guantanamo Bay prisoner are filtered through vaguely but appropriately “ethnic” sound sculpture. Kah-spell, always erring on the bizarrely aphoristic side, outdoes himself with the disc’s opening line: “Jesus loves the little children, even when they torch the cat.” Then though, there is the hypnotic and heartbreaking “Bad Hair”:
Will you stand next to me,
Will you cast nets for me,
Flying through space,
Or falling from grace, …
Similarly far-reaching and personally simplistic lines pervade the track, all set against a lush but transparent multi-pulse of guitars and subtle electronics. If this is not the Dots’ best album, it’s in my top five, and that’s no mean feat for a group that has released consistently interesting and provocative material over the last 25 years. Here’s to 25 more. – Marc Medwin, Dusted
The Legendary Pink Dots, active since 1980, are a band that defies explanation. Their compositions are strange, weird…folk like, experimental and daring. As they embark on their 25th anniversary tour this year, which will include the return of Martijn de Kleer, their latest release, Your Children Placate You From Premature Graves, is disturbing and dark and echoes the state of the planet that, if you ask me, is on the very brink of disaster.
Using elemental electronics with loping movements of bass and rhythm, combining that with nightmarish spoken vocals and the occasional stabs of horns, No Matter What You Do on track two takes us further into a desperate nightmare. Stigmata (Part 4) gives us a light tinkling piano tune, a breather from the previous darker edge. The light, chanting reading is touched with desperation, but never strays too far into the murky depths, staying on the very cliff of sanity looking off into the abyss of madness. Feathers at Dawn is a cute little tune with flamenco, Spanish influenced guitar and light male vocals. Its hoppy style at its onset and within is almost cute inside the surrounding album. Please Don’t Get Me Wrong is a party in a Tupperware factory with Ali Baba as the chief guest. The Island of Our Dreams is surprisingly sweet, but the backing electronic dirges sets a stage of weirdness just beyond the otherwise nicey nice vocals and guitar. Songs like Bad Hair are similar, in that the Dots tread on the waters of insanity but never deluge you. The Made Man’s Manifesto has a vocal quality that is kind of leery and strange, but somehow inviting. Nearly done now, A Silver Thread is a foreboding horn and wind ensemble, jazzlike.
The Legendary Pink Dots have always astounded people with their weirdness. Compared to everything from Skinny Puppy to Coil, They Might Be Giants and more, their folk influence is apparent but they’ll mix in surprising electronics, unexpected experiments and interesting bits of out of place sounds. For anyone looking for something a little more strange for their nightly candlelight vigils, Your Children Placate You From Premature Graves will fit that bill brilliantly. – Marcus Pan, Legends
2006 marks the quarter century mark for one of the world’s most enduring musical enigmas: The Legendary Pink Dots. The twists, contortions, and genre gyrations the band have traversed over this period are dizzying and often occur in the absence of any grand plan or master philosophy save perhaps that of relentless experimentation within broad pop structures. For this year’s offering, LPD have created a characteristically lushly grim song cycle that both looks simultaneously forward with themes of mortality (the final track is ominously entitled “Your Time Is Up”) and immortality and backwards with a mind to trying to organize the scattershot travels of the last twenty five years into a consistent whole. The irony of assembling a coherent legacy for a band whose badge of honor has been to follow loose threads wherever they took them rather than impose some type of top-down organization should not be lost on anyone, least of all LPD themselves. On Your Children… they let the music and lyrics wander in a leisurely stroll through their eclectic garden. As usual, LPD operates from multiple centers of strength at once. The first is Edward Ka-Spel’s carefully constructed and delightfully oblique lyrics. Ka-Spel’s by now familiar themes of guilt, alienation, self-doubt, and other forms of social discomfort are densely packed bombs that blossom in the back of your mind. Ka-Spel is a keen observer of human flaws and these are explored both in the context of bewildering divine forgiveness of horrible transgressions (“No Matter What you Do”) and in the more personal spheres of betrayal (“The Island Of Our Dreams”) and neglect (“Bad Hair”). The cruel vagaries of fate often take center stage. In the exemplary “Please Don’t Get Me Wrong”, a tourist ends up in an unnamed Middle Eastern jail for a crime that is never divulged, even to her. Claustrophobic in both its lyrics and arrangement, it is a harrowing journey from a mundane girl’s night out to a hellish arrest and imprisonment. The resulting montage hearkens back to the band’s long form experimentation in their “Chemical Playschool” series. Ka-Spel deftly transposes the grim details of his story onto a larger canvas; the upcoming “trial” is an apt, if mildly Kafka-esque, metaphor for that final interview to enter the pearly gates. When the song creaks to its end in a repeated mantra of “you have no choice”, it is a spine chilling reminder of the futility of resistance in the face of invisible authority. Musically, LPD navigates waters of synthetic minimalism and full-on rave-up robo-groove with equal assurance, often in the same song (e.g. “The Made Man’s Manifesto”). There’s no sense that any of the songs themselves or the flow of the album in general hew to any pat structure. The gorgeous multi-tracked saxophone intro to the episodic “A Silver Thread” has to contend with spectral shimmers of synthesizer and cymbals to assert its beauty. The fact that it ultimately is swallowed by a sinister cloud of electronics by the middle of the song should not be construed as defeat either. LPD thrives on documenting those brief moments of gorgeous peace that can exist against the most tumultuous of backgrounds. When Ka-Spel’s spoken word vocals finally tell their lonely tale of a depressive’s battle against the all-consuming weight of his malaise, it becomes obvious that this “silver thread” could be all that is connecting him to life itself; it is his mortal coil. Lest one come away with the impression that Your Children… is unrelentingly grim, there is the wonderful flowing entwined bass and sax of “No Matter What You Do”, or “Feathers At Dawn”‘s jaunty guitar strum, tuba and violin (what an arrangement!) melting into a simmering flamenco vamp. Joy and sorrow both have a place at the table. Newcomers to LPD are probably not going to be won over primarily on the strength of this release, but then trying to pin down this band based on one release is akin to reducing a complex organism to a single cell. Sure, the DNA may be present in the cell, but it certainly doesn’t give a complete picture. LPD has been accused of lack of focus in individual releases, but Your Children… does not suffer from that fate. It does what a proper summation should do: it presents a well-formed “state of the band” document while generating enough interest for novices to seek out the genesis of the ideas presented and keeping the fan base enthralled, waiting in rapt attention for the next chapter. – Steve Rybicki, Fake Jazz
The Dots have always been good at exploring the liminal borderlands between structure and abstraction, between dream and waking life, between nightmare and whimsy. The band’s music always has one foot resting on each side, and they are not afraid to dance for extended periods on one side or the other. This album seems to synthesize a lot of the band’s previous approaches: crepuscular nightmare monologues, extended noise jams, chugging electronics, twisted fairy tales, orchestral passages, surrealistic cut-up sequences and druggy excursions into nebulous Qlippothic realms.
Your Children Placate You From Early Graves sounds like a classic LPD album right from the start, with the atmospheric opener “Count On Me;” the sound of a jeering mob serves as a foil for Silverman’s reverberating piano prelude; and a dialogue snippet of a helpful therapist asking: “Did you suffer nightmares? Are you able to tell us what it is you have nightmares about?” This brief track segues into the first proper track on the album, “No Matter What You Do,” a typically indescribable Pink Dots rock hybrid: hash-filtered dub beats, blankets of noise guitar, layers of synthesized drones and chirping electronic effects, Ka-Spel’s heavily processed vocal mantra: “We are so unworthy of his endless mercy.” Then it’s into heavy prog territory, everything combining into a warm, atmospheric fog of dense psychedelic texture, Niels Van Hoorn’s trademark saxophone crying out in the chaos, carving out lines in the thick loam that are quickly swallowed up in the maelstrom.
Your Children has the advantage of being relatively economical in length, and being the only album of new material being released before the tour. Past years have seen the group spreading themselves a bit thin, with two new albums being released simultaneously, often with a couple Ka-Spel solo albums thrown in for good measure. By concentrating on creating nine substantive, well-written and dynamic Dots songs, the group benefits tremendously, and there is nary a wasted moment on the album.
Ka-Spel tackles a lot of familiar lyrical themes: questions of faith, freedom, war and destiny in the postmodern age of alienation. The album’s title seems to suggest a heavy political bent, and this is not a red herring. On “Please Don’t Get Me Wrong,” for instance, Middle Eastern troubles are extra-geographically evoked with Arabic and Indian flavored psychedelia, Ka-Spel’s lyrics narrating a frightening tale of military arrest and summary execution, punctuated with the repeated phrase “You have no choice,” which bounces around the stereo channels exactly like the middle section of 10CC’s “I’m Not in Love.” This leads directly into “Peace of Mind,” which seems to be a direct continuation of the previous song, with Ka-Spel’s futile hopes for a peaceful resolution once again taking the political and making it all too personal.
There are some surprising moments on the album, like the theremin solo which comes out of nowhere on the whimsical “Feathers At Dawn,” or the moment when the beautiful psych-folk of “The Island of our Dreams” suddenly fades out into eerie inorganic drones. The de rigeur ambient noise and spoken-word track makes it appearance here with “A Silver Thread,” which begins in Lynchian territory, hypnotic mutations and overdubs of Van Hoorn’s sultry saxophone weaving through dark, ominous alleyways of Alan Splet-esque drones and low-end electronic shudders, distorted voices, rain-slicked city streets and passing sirens. Towards the end of the track, Ka-Spel chimes in with a sardonic monologue that is both sullen and hilarious: “Out of body, but I don’t like what I see/Find it hard to take what I hover above/And a little voice says that I should get out more/Maybe pick up some DVDs from the library and cry with the stars discreetly in my own surroundings/Pick the scene that moves me the most and play it again and again.”
Playing my most beloved LPD albums for various friends and lovers over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that some people will just never warm up to the Dots. There’s something about the band’s amiguous and amorphous musical style, or Ka-Spel’s peculiar accent and vocal delivery, or the band’s willful eclecticism, or the perceived associations with underground gothic rock, or those who fear anything even hinting at progressive rock, or maybe something else entirely makes it impossible for LPD to penetrate beyond their loyal and bizarrely heterogeneous cult following. I can only speculate as to the reasons why they don’t strike a chord with others, because I have always loved their music, and count a few of their albums as among my favorites of all time. Listening to the penultimate track on Your Children, “The Made Man’s Manifesto,” I was suddenly filled with memories of countless Dots shows past, late-night lava-lamp-lit listening sessions, the thrill of cracking open new LPD and EKS albums over the years, and the strange admixture of the predictably nostalgic and the wholly new that each successive album never fails to provide. – Jonathan Dean, Brainwashed