Lucien Johnson: The Night's Plutonian Shore
By Bruce Morley
It's a risky business mixing spoken word/poetry with music/sound, and I note that one reviewer has said he'd rather like to have the music here on its own. Well, perhaps, because the music is great - but when the words are Edgar Allan Poe's, and the band - Wellington's redoubtable Village of the Idiots - gets to run free with a vengeance (a favourite word of Poe's), the result is pretty organic. The compositions by Johnson (himself a member of the Idiots), based on excerpts from most of Poe's better-known titles (The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Black Cat etc), are occasionally integrated with vocalist Chris Palmer's sprechstimme readings of the words, but when Palmer does deliver the words solo, the band then cuts loose in response. And cut loose they can. The performances here are as good as any I've ever heard in this idiom (loosely, words within a soundscape). Protean drummer Anthony Donaldson is, as ever, front and center while also being hugely supportive, Amanda Mclean delivers some really blowsy trombone and Deane Hunter some fiery guitar. Repeated listening brings a sense of the entire performance as a single concept.