Artist: Legendary Pink Dots
Album: The Whispering Wall
Review date: Jul. 23, 2004
Edward Ka-Spel has led his Legendary Pink Dots through 25 years, a relocation from East London to the Netherlands in 1985, whilst producing numerous records for labels such as Play It Again Sam, Wax Trax, Staalplaat and Soleilmoon.
The Whispering Wall is the Dots third album for the ROIR imprint and marks a minor shift away from its predecessors All The King’s Horses and All The King’s Men. Those records documented a band in transition, still coming to terms with the departure of long term member Ryan Moore. The Whispering Wall is a more fully realised piece, heralding the return of a more familiar sound, pushing Ka-Spel’s lazy lounge lizard croon to the fore, almost Dick Van Dyke-like at times; his lyrics evoke a warped childhood, full of theme park rides where the ghost train is perhaps a little too realistic and even the carousel is a white knuckle ride. These dark narratives are placed within a backdrop of densely layered noise – psychedelic swirls of color and whimsy that bring to mind a more organic sounding Coil or the lighter moments of Skinny Puppy (with whom Ka-spel has often collaborated with under the mantle of Tear Garden). However, The Damned, when Dave Vanian and his motley were in their pantomime goth years, also spring readily to mind.
On particularly good form on this album is the appropriately named Niels Van Hoornblower, on saxophone and clarinet, who raises his respective instruments’ voices above the misty ether, taking over when Ka-Spel’s is once more enveloped by the sonic swamp. His well considered contributions add a spectral finesse to the almost alien “In Sickness & In Health,” while the superb “For Sale” sounds like a conversation between heart broken ghosts, mourning the lost loves they left behind on the mortal coil.
The Whispering Wall, brim full of interesting and worthwhile things to say, both musically and lyrically, is in itself a great achievement. That it has been produced by a band now in its 25th year is nothing short of astonishing.
By Spencer Grady