Subtitled "A Robotic Scabaret," House of the Deafman is a very strange multi-media, pluri-stylistic work. The story line is based on elements of painter Francisco Goya's life and works: in an endless night, Goya gets drunk and contemplates suicide. Some of his most nightmarish paintings come to life and he is visited by the ghost of the Duchess of Alba, his love. The stage production of this work by Frank Garvey called for various robots and real-time virtual puppets, along with musical performances by singer Diana Timble and DeusMachina, the resident ensemble at the composer's OmniCircus performance space. The crossover instrumentation of DeusMachina is what makes this CD such a mesmerizing experience: it includes keyboards, sampling, and other forms of atmospheric sound design, but also guitar, tabla, kora, and the voices of Riffat Salamat Ali Khan and Shafqat Ali Khan. Traditional Pakistani singing ("Deafman 1" and "Deafman 2"), avant-gardist post-industrial soundscapes (the very creepy "Tweedledee-dee"), and pop songs ("Three Fates") come together to create a surrealistic and unclassifiable sound narrative. But most importantly: it works like a charm. House of the Deafman is the kind of record you put on when you want to enter a totally different world, regardless of your affinities with avant-garde or world music; the kind of record you cherish, simply because it can be compared to nothing else. This enhanced CD also includes a short video showing the robots in action, paintings by Garvey, and the script of the stage work.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture