Saturday, November 04, 2006

Songs To Learn And Sing #4

Bringing along a favourite song you should know about today, from Silent Words Speak Loudest and The Art Of Noise, Ben Woolhead:

The Black Heart Procession - A Truth Quietly Told

Draw the curtains closed, grip the duvet tight, and let me begin.

Once upon a time (1997, to be precise), in a place far, far away (well, San Diego) two men by the names of Pall Jenkins and Tobias Nathaniel decided to put their band Three Mile Pilot on indefinite hiatus and try something new. Thus The Black Heart Procession were born.

With the help of a supporting cast of additional musicians and over the
course of two albums (called 1 and 2, for simplicity), the duo honed the sort of unique and unsettling sound that one might expect of musicians who claimed in an NME interview to be influenced equally by Black Sabbath and Eastern European folk music.

2 was followed by Three in 2000 - but not before the characteristically
self-explanatorily-titled 3 Songs EP had been sent blinking and cowering into the light of day. At first it was the second track, the instrumental 'Destroying The City Of Hearts', that held me transfixed in its thrall - but before long I had escaped its clutches only to find myself utterly, utterly possessed by the opener.

'A Truth Quietly Told' is, shall we say, a song that very definitely has something of the night about it. It starts with an eerily desolate
soundscape of chimes and saw (that most underrated of instruments) - and then in crashes one of the most archly melodramatic piano lines you'll ever hear. It's Tom Waits gone Hammer Horror.

And yet, for all its pantomimic excess and gothic flourish (complemented by the EP's cover art featuring cartoon bats and a man with a horse's head), there's something seriously unnerving about this song which gets right under the skin. Just listen to the crescendo at 2:30 and tell me your hair isn't standing on end.

And then there's the key lyric: the apparent "truth" that is being "quietly told" is that "I'll be there for you". Words that would ordinarily be a source of comfort and consolation instead assume a sinister and threatening shape in the context of the music to which they're set. He'll be there all right, lurking in the shadows, waiting and watching.

It tails off into the night as it began, with unsettling chimes and saw, and it's fairly safe to assume that no-one lived happily ever after. At very least, they will have woken up with bite marks to the neck.

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