Switchblade Symphony

Serpentine Gallery

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When beauty collides with intellect, whether divine or arcane, the result is always good listening. Subtly sublime and hypnotically haunting, Susan Wallace and Tina Root, the darkwave duo behind Switchblade Symphony, brew an ambitious goth broth on their debut LP, Serpentine Gallery, named after the famed British exhibition hall. Following the lead of surrealist photographer Man Ray, these California girls go for textures of mood beyond the framework of conventional songwriting. Luckily, Serpentine Gallery combines two demos, so the song base is strong; Fable, which deals with fairies and magic, and Elegy, which doles out cold, hard reality, come together seamlessly, because the production on Serpentine Gallery supplies a sonic wash that unifies the two disparate ideologies. Sure, sometimes such atmosphere outweighs the melody and leaves the lyric behind. But all is forgiven, for Wallace and Root are young and their ideas possess maturity and depth. Their unique chemistry and diverse influences explain their popularity with a generation who rarely visits such bizarre realms of beguiling Baroque. Each tune wields enough personality to distinguish itself ("Dissolve" and "Clown" are quite good). Varying sonics and guitar gnashing help "Sweet" soar (not a reference to the gutter-glitter band of the same name, as Root is surprisingly influenced by the vocal styling of Mike Patton). Switchblade Symphony could resurrect the mysticism and eclecticism of vintage Siouxsie & the Banshees. That's a lofty goal, but these are two talented ladies.

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