Black Sun Productions
assimo and Pierce, the brains and cheekbones behind Black Sun Productions, have gotten more than their fair share of abuse in the past—some received (possibly) willingly as sex workers in Europe and some not so willingly (accusations of vampirism because of their affiliation with the now-defunct Coil). But let’s be honest: they do their fair share of dishing it out too (see the excellently Gothic and literally shit-stained limited edition Toilet Chant EP).
From the very start of Operett Amorale, things seem different, though. The introductory cello and stilted accordion piece “Brothel Tango” blends the gorgeously and gloriously European worlds of electronic and acoustic, making it obvious that the listener will be in for a dramatic, sleazy ride. As a tribute to Bertolt Brecht (the infamous director/dramatist/poet), the album laudably avoids spending all its time reinterpreting the best-known Brecht work and instead focuses on twisting together Brecht’s poetry and Black Sun Productions real-life experiences that reeks of the instrumentation, sound, and feel of early 20th century Berlin.
Operett Amorale sees Massimo and Pierce link up with musical Noise-Pop muscle Fabrizio Pallumbo (of (r) and Larsen fame) and a selection of other leftfield heavyweights to achieve their musical vision.
Case in point: It's hard to say who sounds like the creepier pervert on "Seeraeuber-Jenny," as both Pierce and HR Giger give it maximum axis-of-evil-dictator-style vocals over a serpentine cloud drone of repeating keyboards. Giger also contributes cover art to Operett Amorale in the form of a sketch of his famous alien about to rip apart some young lady after entering her with tail, member, and jaws. At first glance, this seems at odds with the album’s feel, but soon makes sense as an elegant yet dangerous penetration; an instantly recognisable visual that’s both mainstream and subversive. Darker again is “Johnny Over the Ocean” (a Pierce solo piece with Massimo joining on vocals), a thick musical drone with ceiling fan beats that rise to shaking propeller proportions. The slippery, damaged vocals that reference sleep and death sound like they were dragged from some lost folk song by the hair.
It wouldn’t take a genius to work out that of all the guests here, it's sometime-mentors Coil who provide the strongest non-Massimo and Pierce piece. “A List of Wishes” shows Coil (recorded in August 2004) at the height of their more commercial powers with a jaunty (yes, jaunty) black-and-white, dusty vinyl jig built on a cheery loop. The late Jhonn Balance scats and barks around his own soaring, strong FXed vocal, giving life to some of Brecht’s odder poetry and showing once more that we lost a truly gifted eccentric.
The only minor slip is Lydia Lunch’s vocal on the brief “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” which, like much of her later work, is delivered in an unctuous, croaky, hard-to-follow and over-the-top delivery. Still the music is beautiful enough to save it from the edit, as the backing moves in swirls, circling it with occasional grounding melodic keyboard notes. Pallumbo’s orchestrated versions of Black Sun Productions demo electronic versions work best (as on “Pimp Ballad”) when he updates the 20s sound with delicate bleeps, tones, and hums amid the live instrumentation. When “Ratschläge (einer älteren Fose an eine Jüngere)” begins with the sound of digital burning and Pierce’s sinister German monologue (as his vocal goes on, he becomes warmer) it gives little clue that the burning will recede into a streaming organ and shimmering delicate flourishes of Rowland S. Howard guitar. They’re not afraid to keep it simple either: Massimo’s grand vocal on the torch song “La Canzone dei Pendagli da Forca” features no sonic company save a lone piano and raven’s call.
Those able to step back and look at BSP as the brain and heart of the LP should give full marks to them for putting this collection together so perfectly. When the reviews flood in for the next Black Sun Productions release, there won’t be any need to bring up the ghost of Coil anymore. These boys are on their own.