Death Shanties' first record, with the definitely apt but maybe not apt at all title 'Crabs', is an attempt by drummer Alex Neilson, saxophonist Sybren Reneme and extra-media artist Lucy Stein to combine a bunch of ridiculous types of folklore into one record, touching on Medieval-era music, Sea shanties and"1960's fire music". They describe it as free jazz; whatever it is, it's very historical, in its own way, and very experimental.
- Shadow Boxing with Crabs
- Something Wakes Up Terrified
- The Life of a Wave
- Come Sunday
- Baby Dodds Is Dead
- Postcards from the Interior of a Star
- The Melting Mountain
- O! Where Is Saint George?
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- Crabs by Death Shanties
8/10 Mike Staff review, 14 August 2014
Judging from the title I thought this was going to be an album of sea shanties, but as is so often the case I was very wrong. Death Shanties is in fact a free jazz duo comprising of Alex Neilson on drums and Sybren Renema on alto and baritone sax, with a handful of buddies helping out on vocals and guitar for closer 'O! Where is Saint George'.
It's quite a varied but generally pretty tasteful journey, starting off in fine style on 'Shadow Boxing With Crabs', where Renema eases us in with some smooth, long notes before firing off some wild trilling runs and dizzying repeated phrases before we get thrown in the deep end on the very squeaky 'Something Wakes Us Up Terrified'. A mournful freeform twiddle through Duke Ellington's 'Come Sunday' is another notable feature of side A.
Over on the flip we've got the ritualistic drone'n'churn of 'Barry Dodds Is Dead' before the album's longest track 'Postcards From The Interior Of A Star', which finds a nice midpoint between their smooth classy side and their widdling-all-over-the-place side and sticks with it for a good long while. There's even a drum solo. Closer 'O! Where is Saint George' warrants a mention too, an uplifting drift of cymbal washes, spoken vocals (from D.M. Thomas's 'The White Hotel') over a group-sung traditional Cornish May Day salutation song and some almost violin-like textures come from the sax. In a way it's slightly chaotic with so much going on, but there's something really warm and comforting about the way all the pieces fit together.
A varied and sometimes highly unusual album.
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