The Remote Viewers

The Minimum Programme of Humanity: Sung Words by Bertolt Brecht

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While Stranded Depots, the Remote Viewers' fourth album, appeared to be stretching what was becoming more and more a recipe, The Minimum Programme of Humanity brings the group back to their exciting self: genre-pushing, impossible to peg down, and disquietingly attractive. The CD is presented by its record label as the trio's most accessible release. Granted, using poems by Berthold Brecht will open a window for newcomers to get in, but in fact the music has rarely been this challenging. This repertoire, a cycle of songs based on pages from Brecht's Poems 1913-1956, was composed in 1998 for Louise and David Petts' duo B-Shops for the Poor. Completely rearranged to fit the personnel, instrumentation, and persona of the Remote Viewers, it sounds like a nightmarish journey through the mind of the author. Louise Petts' voice, seducing as ever, lures listeners into songs where the melody is often the strangest element in presence. Placid, distant, but extremely erotic (here comes the inevitable comparison to Marlene Dietrich), it hypnotizes while an antiquated drum machine, synthesizers, lo-fi electronics, and saxophone create a "cabaret noir" background that flickers back and forth between the 1920s and 2020s. The narrative "Brecht's Gothic Tale" is a bit harder to get into (although still very stimulating), but "Travelling in a Comfortable Car," "Once," and "Changing the Wheel" all stand among the group's best pieces ever. Since there are no cover versions of pop or jazz tunes to recognize, The Minimum Programme of Humanity requires a little more effort from the listener, but it rewards. Does it ever!

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