Awkward Geisha – Tales from the Afterlife

awkward geishaNo matter how adventurous your taste in music, there is something oddly unsettling about albums that feature multiple styles. You may be entirely comfortable pressing play on your old CD copy of Tom Waits’ Bone Machine right after your favourite Alice Coltrane record. But put both genres on the same disc, and we can’t get our heads around it.

Awkward Geisha’s Tales from the Afterlife is a fine example. Over the course of its 125 minutes, this remarkable album delivers free jazz, new classical, ear-splitting noise and more. Track two isn’t called “They Fuck You Up” for nothing.

Surprisingly, that expletive identifies one of the album’s easier listens. Its downtempo guitar jazz vibe is beautifully paced and full of small surprises.

That’s followed immediately by the rather apocalyptic “The Four Horsemen.” Theatrical, incessant strings are at worst foreboding, at best a foreshadowing of greater drama to follow.

“Spacerock One Seven” is the album’s most conventional track, employing ‘60s-style guitar effects and a heavily treated vocal performance.

Every track is a new, wonderfully disorienting experience. Track nine, for example, is an homage to its namesake “Viva Las Vegas.” Perhaps it’s a cover. To be honest, it’s difficult to tell.

A 30-minute epic closes the album. Its title track starts with a lonely harmonica over top of ominous ambient sound. It moves from there to dissonant electric guitar, free jazz saxophone and – fair warning – a sudden, jarring shift into heavy white noise. Keep an eye on your media player; the rough stuff kicks in at 20:32 and runs 10 full minutes.

And then just like that, it’s over. Silence. You may never play it again, but you won’t soon forget it.

Kevin Press

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