Switchblade Symphony is a San Francisco band that reprises
Siouxsie's intuitions (if not the music)
in songs that hark back to gothic literature while employing exotic melodies,
tribal percussion, eerie keyboards and operatic female singing.
Rather than driving a revival of vintage dark-punk, Switchblade Symphony,
originally (1989) a duo of singer Tina Root and keyboardist Susan Wallace,
updates that genre to the era of Dead Can Dance
and Lycia. The former's lushy arrangements
and the latter's eerie melancholy are the key elements of
Switchblade Symphony's hymns.
The album Serpentine Gallery (Cleopatra, 1995), recorded with
guitarist Robin Jacobs, recycles the tracks that made them a legend,
mostly the single Mine Eyes (a gregorian chant over pounding tribal
drums) and selections from the EPs
Fable and Elegy.
The underground success of those tracks propelled the band to
the forefront of the dark wave movement.
THe musicians are eclectic enough to paint each song on a different palette:
Bad Trash stirs symphonic arrangements, thundering beats and
The carillon and the childplay of Wallflower have an hypnotic power
that is reminiscent of Sinead O'Connor's
The threatening pathos of Clown revolves around metal guitar,
African tom toms, baroque violins and electronic drones.
A more traditional approach to goth music comes with
the sinister Siouxsie overdrive of Dollhouse and
the solemn, cerimonial, quasi-gamelan pace of Gutter Gutter.
Dissolve transcends the genre and focuses on crafting atmospheric sounds
with middle-eastern swing, psychedelic vocalizing and chamber strings.
Their fascination with classical music is revealed by the
martial minuet and the operatic aria of Cocoon.
All in all, Switchblade Symphony have mastered the tools of the craft and
have enough imagination to put it to good use.
Alas, Bread And Jam For Frances (Cleopatra, 1997) is a letdown,
and songs like Invisible, from the following
The Three Calamities (Cleopatra, 1999), proves that this indeed was
only a minor glitch in the history of dark punk.
Guitarist George Earth also has his own project, the Candymachine88,
that released Oatmeal North Of The Eyebrows
and The Blind Leading The Naked.
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