Various Artists

Dead & Gone #2: Totenlieder - Songs of Death

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The second volume in Trikont's Death Music series is not quite as eclectic as the funeral marches on Dead & Gone #1, but just as entertaining and in this case, demented. This is the humor part of the series. For starters, 13 of the collections 22 tracks are in English. They range from the Beasts of Bourbon's "Rest in Peace" to Lydia Lunch's scary reading of "Gloomy Sunday" to the Geto Boys' "I Just Wanna Die" to Diamanda Galas' "Blind Man's Cry." But there are also familiar tunes here, such as Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," and Cassandra Wilson's version of the Son House classic "Death Letter." Interspersed throughout are string-band death spiritual songs, a gorgeous romantic death song that is the album's high point, and psychobilly workouts like Jasper Smith's "Died for Love" and the German band Serbische's "Totenklage." Juxtaposition and sequencing are everything in Trikont's aesthetic. When you can pair Miranda Sex Garden's aspiring medieval polyphony and an Italian funeral song, a traditional "Miserere" from another a cappella group, or Nico and Lou Reed next to each other with perhaps the most perverse songs from their careers ("My Only Child" and "Goodby Mass," respectively), you are doing something right. There's also the strange pairing of Walter "Kid" Smith and the Virginia Dandies' reading of the traditional "Whisper Softly, Mother's Dying," and the rowdy Girls of the Golden West's "By the Grave of Nobody's Darling" is downright creepy. The pace of the record works as well as anything else; with every few songs, the level of depression gets to its lowest point and is relieved with black humor. The creepiest moment is on the album's closer from Gary Floyd, a solid singer/songwriter and formerly the frontman for the sensitive and poetic punk band the Dicks. His "From the Darkness to the Light" is a folk song of truly deadly proportions. This is a song about the process of death itself, and though it tries to be optimistic, it still comes off as macabre. Galas, who is known for her shocking gothic horrorscapes of sight and sound, sings a poem by Paul Verlaine and turns it into a Spanish death song, using the full range of her gorgeous voice. In all this is one weird record, but it's fun one; and if you can laugh about death in one moment and be scared even more in the very next, that means that the producers have done their job well.

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