Melora Creager (founder and leader of Rasputina, the rockinest cellists this
side of anywhere) has joined together with faerie artist Amy Brown and music
publicist Julie Griner to create a winning compilation that hearkens back to
the Brothers Grimmas well as the heyday of goth compilations before
Cleopatra Records started spewing out so many ridiculous tribute CDs. Nary a
kohl-lined eye can remain dry when reminiscing about 4AD's seminal (and
still available) comp Lonely Is an Eyesore and dreamy collective This Mortal
Coil. Ethereal, shoegazing fans could take refuge during the '90s with
artists like Delirium, Sarah MacLachlan and Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerard,
but they can finally come home again with 12 Tales.
Each song from the 12 different featured artists (including high-profilers
like The Creatures, The Legendary Pink Dots and The Cranes, as well as
lesser known bands) is accompanied by a tiny fairy tale and illustration.
The songs really have naught to do with the talesmost songs were
previously released on Instinct Records so it's as much a label showcase as
anything. Really, the big draw here isn't the quaint theme but the mix of
artists both known and unknown.
The first track from Rasputina is a gorgeous rock opera nightmare. Vocals
howl above a tempestuous din, like a siren directing this storm that after
reaching its chaotic crescendo, and then slowly drown in a wash of feedback
and strings. Future Bible Heroes follow with a surprising and pleasing synth
quietness. Stephen Merrick's (of The Magnetic Fields) always melancholy,
strangely vulnerable monotone vocals fit in well here. In fact, Merrick
basically does an eerie atmospheric Legendary Pink Dots song much better
than the Dots do themselves on the final track of 12 Tales, which is
unfortunately more boring than haunting.
The Creatures "Slipping Away" begins with 90-second interlude of a guitar
stuck on rewind, instead of the heavy synth we've come to expect, and
Siouxsie's vocals return to her early '80s' closet. And even though the song
clocks in at more than five minutes, it fades just as you're expecting it to
soar. Japan's David Sylvian's vocals on Russell Mills/Undark's "Room of
Sixteen Shimmers" give the simple piece an added depth.
Other artists do exactly as expected and provide nice, if not exactly
revolutionary, filler. Violet Indianacomprised of Cocteau Twins' Robin
Guthrie and Mono's Siobhan de Maresounds exactly like you think: Cocteau
Twins rendered lifeless without Elizabeth Fraser's angel-on-PCP vocals.
Miranda Sex Garden still wails like there's no tomorrow. The Flir does a
pitch perfect impression of Mephisto Waltz, and Bitstream Dream walks down
the familiar India-influenced sitar path in "Impossible Gardens."
For those unfamiliar with this ethereal brand of dreampop, 12 Tales is a
good introduction of the best the genre has to offer, but without being too
tightly tied down by genre boundaries. Tree-hugging dreamers with fond
Lilith Fair memories may find this a new avenue to explore. And for those
who recognize more than a few of the names on the cover, they'll get exactly
as expected: A nicely priced compilation that provides unexpected
discoveries and great music.