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Rope - Widow's First Dawn

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Artist: Rope

Album: Widow's First Dawn

Label: Family Vineyard

Review date: Dec. 3, 2003

This is a CD I very much wish I'd had in time for Halloween: it's legitimately scary, even by today's jaded standards. Rope consists of Polish rockers/composers/dramatists Przemyslaw Chris Drazek (guitars) and Robert Lwanik (electric bass & vocals) who have hooked up with American percussionist Michael J. Kendrick to create some of the strangest music around. I first caught this group at a tiny club in rural central Massachusetts and had nightmares for a week. They were so grotesquely.off center.and so loud about it. The handful of listeners that night were mesmerized not only by the power of Rope's bleak vision, but by the sheer depth of the writing and expertness of their performance. It was clear, that like a Magic Band gig of the early ’70s, many hundreds of hours had gone into the composition and rehearsal of these works. It's my understanding that they blew audiences away everywhere they played. With its menacing, half-whispered-half-growled vocals and its hyper-complicated instrumental writing, you may think Diamonda Galas has met Drumbo, and, after the manner of a black widow spider, eaten him.

Most of the music on Widow's First Dawn has a heavy gothic tint, though there are lighter textured moments on each of the six brilliant songs. Their earlier recording Fever, also on Family Vineyard, doesn't do them anything like justice. But Widow's First Dawn is wonderfully faithful to their doomsday vision. It's all there – the impossible rhythms, the screaming guitar, exclamatory homophony alternating with hairy counterpoint, the harsh, breathy lyrics, the bizarro harmonic approach. They add some additional timbres on disc, though, giving occasional space to soprano Grazyna Auguscik, soprano saxophonist Marty Belcher, and (unfittingly Monkish) pianist Darin Gray. (Auguscik's otherworldly, Berberianesque vocals are nearly as unsettling as Iwanik's threatening exhalations.)

One can also find, here and there, the pong of alm glocken and the soft ching of a strummed acoustic guitar. With the exception of Gray's piano, these visits from other, gentler sound worlds never detract from the slightly undead conception that seems to run through each tune. In fact, a background whoosh that might be likened to the howling waters of Hades is an almost constant companion to the guitars, drums and vocals here. I don't know what any of the six songs here are actually about, but they certainly hang together as a suite. To tell the truth, I'm not sure I really want to know what any of these words connote: I'm already disturbed enough without that. With or without propositional meanings Widow's First Dawn contains beauty of the darkest kind. A great, sui generis recording by an important new band.

By Walter Horn

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