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CD Feature/ Michale Graves: "Illusions Live/Viretta Park"

img  Tobias

Michale Graves is not afraid of contradictions. In fact, he seems quite happy to draw inspiration from them. A former lead vocalist of legendary Punk ensemble The Misfits, he would go on to record an album called „Punk Rock is Dead“ a mere four years later. In his songs, he is reconciling the catchyness and upbeat frivolity of Pop, the morbid tone of an apocalyptic preacher and the passionate spirit of the underground. Meanwhile, his support of George W. Bush during the Iran invasion – a shock to all those who had habitually filed him away in the idealistic drawer of the political left - was medially blown out of all proportions. It did, however, point to the fact that Graves has never sought to be please nor to hide behind the safe mask of cliche: This man's tongue truly is where is heart is.

Most of all, his tongue and vocal chords are capable of piercing the fabric of even the numbest and most exsanguinated of hearts. „Illusions Live“ is one of the rare albums that require no 16-channel mixing consoles, expensive microphone setups, unplugged-style audiences and extensive post-production to work. Armed with nothing but an Acoustic Guitar, Graves works his way through seventeen tracks with a natural emphasis on previous studio full-length „Illusions“ but also including cuts from his very first solo work „Web of Dharma“. Recording quality is grainy, his playing reduced to simple strumming patterns, spectators appreciative but noisy – even right in the middle of the songs, there is a constant backdrop of chatter and you can clearly discern the sounds of people moving and drinking.

It is in this ambiance, however, that Graves feels most at home. The raucous but familial mood is ideally suited to his no-frills songwriting, his energetic delivery and his personal presence. Light turns to shadow, small cuts into gaping wounds and everything that was once refined now sounds raw: „Blackbird“, originally a sweet Folk song suddenly reveals ominous trapdoors, „Butchershop“ comes across as a music-made horror movie and the funky Guitar patterns of „Wormwood“ are perverted into a pandemonium of staccatoed signals and razor-sharp metrics. And then there is his voice which cuts through the madness with an unashamedly naked emotional intensity and utmost precision. In fact, side-by-side with the original versions, Graves performance is even closer to the slightly unreal, otherworldly aesthetics many of his compositions appear to gyrate towards. He lends surprising new twists to some of the melodies and deeper, previously unsuspected meanings to the words, which he spits out with frenzied furore in one moment only to whisper forebodingly in the next.

Thanks to the addition of fully-fledged Bonus-EP „Viretta Park“, recorded all but on the fly during a short two-day studio-visit in the studio in Bukarest in the Summer of last year, you can now draw these comparisons for youself. Ideas are flowing freely and arrangements are colourful, including heavily-reverbed Drums on „Locked Away“ and the goosebump-vocal-polyphony of „The Eternal Haunting“. The same mixed sensation of musical bliss and something terrible about to happen is pervasive here, but it is softened by a production which places a much stronger emphasis on a harmonious balance between the diverging psychological strands. To some, these bundled releases must seem like the works of two entirely different personalities. But who would have expected anything different from an artist who has made the inspirational side of contradiction his friend?

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Michale Graves
Homepage: Screaming Crow Records

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