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«Songs for the Dead»

Belgian violinist-violist-composer (of the psychedelic post-rock trio Nile on waX, and actress) Catherine Graindorge’s new ensemble album Songs for the Dead was inspired by mythologies and elegies from the Greeks to the Beat Movement. And Graindorge thinks that such stories and myths have a quiet power and they ripple like rivers through our lives, our cultures. Some are ancient, others more recent, but they all help to shape us, to guide and console us along the ways of life and love and death.

The project was sparked by Beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s «A Dream Record» (1955), which relates to the death of Joan Vollmer, the wife of writer William Burroughs who killed her while allegedly trying to emulate William Tell and shot a glass off her head. In this poem, a dreaming Ginsberg visits Vollmer and both laugh and talk of mutual friends as if Vollmer was still alive. But the reality of the grave returns and the dream fades. Graindorge explains that this poem says everything about our lives, and constructed the project around it. «Something can happen and there’s no return, except in our dreams when the dead come to visit us».

Songs for the Dead explores beauty, loss and love through the connection of Ginsberg and Vollmer – with the chilly adaption of Ginsberg’s poem in «This is a Dream» («…, she was a dream: and questioned her / –Joan, what kind of knowledge have the dead? /  can you still love your mortal acquaintances?  / What do you remember of us?…») but also with the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, creating a thoughtful and intimate dialogue of music and voice.

As an experienced composer for film and theatre, Graindorge understands the power of atmosphere in music and uses it to the full here, and the ethereal, vulnerable spirit of the album leaves enough space for imagination. The dramatic vocal delivery of Simon Huw Jones (who is also the lyricist of a few of the pieces, of the British alternative rock band And Also the Trees) lends a mournful gravity to the stories and myths, older and new, that now find ways to correspond with each other. This beautiful and moving album reaches its emotional climax in the final piece «Time Is Broken» where Jones and Graindorge duet until they conclude that «There is no more to say». The analog mixing of the album adds a warmer touch to these eternal stories and myths.

Eyal Hareuveni

Catherine Graindorge (violin, viola, harmonium, vocals), Simon Huw Jones (vocals), Pascal Humbert (bass, double bass), Simon Ho (piano, keyboards), Elie Rabinovitch (drums)