Various Artists

A Sepiachord Passport

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The transmogrification of a sizable chunk of goth culture into a full or partial pre-rock approach -- equal parts influenced by Klaus Nomi, steampunk hangover, and maybe judicious playing of Bauhaus' "The Three Shadows, Pt. 3" or Dead Can Dance's take on the Brecht-Weill composition "How Fortunate the Man with None" -- has been captured in a slew of releases and the occasional compilation, so A Sepiachord Passport has its definite antecedents. As a sampler for 2010 it's a pretty good overview of what's out there in the U.S., and if nothing else shows that there's no simple way to pigeonhole what's out there in one fell swoop -- the near-cartoonish falsetto wails on Tiger Lillies' "Roll Up" seems to conjure up Berlin 1932 just like that, but the next track, Walter Sickert's "Off with Her Head!!!," moves easily into sea shanties via late-period Swans and plenty of echo along with all the extreme vocal melodrama by the backing singers. Instrumental rockers like "Scarlet Carpet Interstate, Pt. 1" by Nathaniel Johnstone & the Brazilian Surf Mafia rub up against Never Never Land 1930s jazz jams such as "Kibosh on Your Scene" by Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band. Then there's the full-on rock of bands like Blackbird Orchestra and the brogue-heavy punk of the Men That Would Not Be Blamed for Nothing and yet more. For all the sonic (and band name) play at work, there ultimately is a through-line of sorts -- the evident fascination the art glam wing in the early '70s had for the 1920s and 1930s (think David Bowie, Roxy Music, the success of the film Cabaret), crossed at points with a continuing old weird America fetish -- and everything from the vaudeville touches of ukuleles and barrelhouse pianos goes into the mix. Not to mention more names like Miss Mamie Lavona the Exotic Mulatta and Her White Boy Band (with one of the best songs, the jaunty "Thief Song").

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