The Brotherhood of the Flood is reviewed by Edwin McFee in the new Hot Press,out today.
“The Brotherhood of the Flood is an ambitious, at times brilliant offering from the fertile hive mind that is The Revelator Orchestra. Sonically the album owes a debt to art rock, movie scores and the ambient and folk scenes, calling to mind acts like the Velvet Underground and Akira Yamoaka over the course of 14 tracks. Murphy’s performances are part preacher, part slam poet… while vocalist Paula Cox’s tones add some warmth to the material (particularly on the industrial sounding ‘Billy Litt’). In some senses, the record is a Frankenstein’s monster. It’s unique and primal, ugly and beautiful, with composer Acko ensuring that all limbs are kept together throughout, stitching metal (‘Iggy Ellis’), Irish trad (‘The Lost Alice’) and more… They sound like a band at the peak of their powers.”
Ladies and gentlemen, The Revelator Orchestra will be on RTE Radio 1′s Arena this evening, Monday Oct 20th, kick off at 7pm. Tune in and get an earful of a couple of tracks from The Brotherhood of the Flood, plus a bit of a natter. Looking forward to it.
For your listening pleasure:
You could see Charles Stafford walk the country roads throughout that month, and when his eyes began to burn with light you knew he must have glimpsed her in the thickets and the groves, his vanished child returned at last to ease his suffering. She flitted like a chimera across his field of vision, skirting between the moon’s glittering beams, a faerie queen or changeling or a creature made of mist, and he hurried after her image murmuring her name.
And so you’d see him in the townlands, a fisherman’s slicker around his bony shoulders, white hair sticking out from beneath a woollen cap. Folk would remark how anguished-looking he’d become, for faith you should have known him in his prime: a proper gent with cufflinks and a paisley tie in a perfect Windsor knot. Now look at him wandering the town, his name well-known among the drinkers and the betting men: the fallen Prof., the poor misfortunate.
And any soul who came close enough might have heard him utter Alice, as though to speak her name repeatedly might invoke her form, until the word itself detached from all memory and meaning and became another thing entirely, a mantra, an incantation, and he’d continue muttering it until the light dimmed on the fields and the jackdaws’ chatter hushed and a merciful darkness descended on the land.
Then one night by the river’s edge he glimpsed a host of shimmering lights at play, like fireflies or river wisps or gossamer. Under the moon that was once a mother looking down upon the Liberties, and who still looked down on Murn, he saw her there, his stolen child suspended, frozen in a twilight realm, beckoning, beckoning…
Check your preconceptions: you’re about to take a trip. This is not rock ‘n’ roll and it’s not theatre and it’s not performance art or spoken word: it’s The Brotherhood of the Flood, The Revelator Orchestra’s second album, inspired by frontman Peter Murphy’s second novel Shall We Gather at the River (described by punk godfather Richard Hell as “majestic and squalid at the same time”). The Brotherhood of the Flood is an epic piece of work: fourteen tracks that tell the story of nine people who give themselves to the fictional Rua river in the year 1984.
For the uninitiated, here’s the recap: The Revelator Orchestra came together when composer/producer Acko — the one with the laptop and the Takamine and the Quaker hat — set about scoring readings from Murphy’s first novel John the Revelator back in 2009. When master shaman/showman Jerry Fish heard those recordings his brain was so fried he offered to release them on his own Mudbug Club label. So they did precisely that.
The resulting album The Sounds of John the Revelator, released in 2012, was described by Hot Press magazine as “the end of the world news narrated by the preacher from the black lagoon, scored by Aphex Twin’s evil siblings and directed by Hieronymus Bosch.” In the US, Jambands.com declared it, “a neat piece of work that somehow combines the weirdness of Poe with the coolness of the Beats over a soundtrack that might’ve been created by the Velvet Underground” while legendary Detroit arts maven Rick Manore was moved to remark: “The Revelator Orchestra is a primal, foreboding trio that baptizes the listener in a muddy Delta Blues wash, while Murphy evokes the glorious dread of Edgar Allen Poe coupled with his Joycean rhythmic cadence… I just can’t stop listening and watching.”
So far so good, but the Revelator Orchestra were fast evolving. For the second album sessions they were joined by Paula Cox, whose vocalarrangements and composing and arranging skills brought new dimensions of melody, colour and light to the process. Now a three-piece, the Revelator Orchestra began playing the new material live, honing their set into something less like a musical performance than a 3D graphic novel, or as one observer put it: “Tom Waits meets Twin Peaks.”
So buckle up: The Brotherhood of the Flood begins with a symphonic title track – a nine-minute assault worthy of a Spector production – and concludes with ‘Kill the River’, a wintry hymn layered with glorious vocal harmonies. In between, tracks like ‘The Why’ recall Julee Cruise or This Mortal Coil at their eeriest; ‘Billy Litt”s big beat throb hinges around a will he?/won’t he? murder mystery, and ‘The Lost Alice’, a revival of an old Scandinavian folk air, features Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s 300-year-old viola. Elsewhere, ‘Frank O’Reilly’s War’ might be Apocalypse Now redux, and ‘Isaac Miller’, with its thundering loops, PiL guitar and banshee vocals, underlines the point where unrequited love becomes psychosis. Then there’s ‘Iggy Ellis’, recently described by In Dublin as the group’s attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records for the only spoken word track ever to end with a thrash-metal segment. “Bizarre,” they declared, “but it works.”
So, The Brotherhood of the Flood defies categorisation. The Revelator Orchestra will steal anything because they listen to everything: primal rock ‘n roll, trance, folk, ambient, film scores, you name it. This is the end product of a collective thirty-year obsession with sound. Murphy (who’s been known to don black feathered wings and eyeliner and crawl across tables and howl like a werewolf during live shows), played drums with The Tulips and Grasshopper before carving out a career as a writer and journalist, profiling the likes of Lou Reed, James Ellroy, William Gibson and more. His first novel John the Revelator was published to worldwide hosannas in 2009: Shall We Gather at the River followed four years later, establishing him out as one of Ireland’s most uncompromising and original writers. As for the other two, Acko, the band’s musical backbone and evil genius, is equally skilled as a songwriter, composer, recording engineer and producer, while Miss Cox was lead singer with The Bush, the Tree, and Me, signed to Sony at the turn of the millennium, and who counted Blur, The Strokes and Jarvis Cocker among their fans. Collectively, they make for a full-on live experience.
“We are pretty intense live,” Peter admits. “We go from tragedy to slapstick to psychodrama. It takes people a few minutes to get their heads around us: ‘Is this a rock ‘n’ roll band or a weird theatre troupe or a spoken word act?’ One thing I love about Bowie and Tom Waits and Iggy is the way they draw on inspiration from outside music, from books and theatre and film. When bands only reference other bands they become inbred. The three of us are curious about everything. Acko’s watched more movies than any other person I’ve ever met. I’m a writer. Paula’s got a track record in everything from pop to choral music: she’s sung in Carnegie Hall for godsakes. It all goes into the cauldron. But we’re not happy unless we establish an emotional connection with an audience, on our records or on stage.”
The Brotherhood of the Flood is released on Devil-Elvis Records, October 23rd.