Tuesday, 3 June 2008

CD Review - Congregation


By M.D. Spenser

This alternative, post-punk album is a very dark affair but a musically inventive and exciting one, too.

Congregation is two Brits – Benjamin Prosser and Victoria Yeulet – collaborating on an album that is based largely on 12-bar Blues yet is quite experimental.

Prosser plays slide guitar and bass drum. Yeulet sings and, oh, yes, that’s her on the leg bells.

The sound is very spare – just Prosser’s guitar, sometimes augmented by a thump of the drum hammering on the beat and only on the beat. Above it soars Yeulet’s voice, which owes something to Peggy Lee and something to Neko Case, all bright red lipstick, brassiness and beckoning finger – except that Yeulet is usually sending her lover away and preparing to wallow in despair.

“Too bad your loving was like a dose of hell,” she sings on the opening cut. “I ain’t never seen someone so awful,” she continues in another song, ‘Never Forgive.’

Let’s say it straight out: There’s a passing, if remote, association with mental illness here.

Prosser began his artistic career after a bout of severe depression. Yeulet came to attention in The Television Personalities, a group whose primary member, songwriter Dan Treacy, struggled with addiction and illness.

There is something honest and unprotected about such darkness, something that allows us to see into corners of ourselves we normally keep covered.

The music is inventive, ranging from the slow and mournful to up-tempo Blues and even what sounds like an updated version of ’60s rock. Original, and beautifully done.

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