A Place Both Wonderful and Strange
Review by Jeffrey Kohld Kelly
A Place Both Wonderful and Strange, a self-described Occult Dance Music band based in Brooklyn released their most recent EP ‘Coverups’ in February of 2018 on the heels of their 2017 release ‘What I Speak I Create’. This EP features two covers, one of Nine Inch Nails’ siren song of dismay “Hurt”, and the other Donna Lewis’ ILU AF. This band has a fairly iconic song format stylized by pulsating basses and decimated and bit-crushed percussive soundscapes reminiscent of SØLVE or Δaimon. But more than that, they draw influences of trance-gated leads and soaring female vocals juxtaposed by their male vocalist’s vaguely atonal groaning.
After hearing countless covers of Hurt across various genres I found myself genuinely curious to see how such a dark band would approach an already dark song. From Johnny Cash’s haunting and melancholic cover to Verona’s dreamy panoramic interpretation and countless other interpretations between, the band was obviously hard-pressed to make this their own without stepping on anyone’s artistic toes.
To be quite honest, I can’t help but be disappointed by this cover that A Place Both Wonderful and Strange produced. While still marked by these iconic basslines and disturbed mechanical poundings, the instrumental drags, becoming more of a mind-melded drone that exceeds patience rather than expectations. The vocal performance is the song’s weakest link, being both unconvincing and uninspired. I find myself wondering if the singer was trying too hard to sound disturbed or “creepy” that he lost sight of the ultimate goal; the vocals are pitchy and scattered but in a way best described as amateur rather than tortured as the original encapsulates. Furthermore, while the original song is a colossal build from beginning to end, rising and swooping with emotional charge that tells a complete story, this cover is devoid of dynamic expression or change. It starts at Point A and ends at still at Point A, never quite giving us that much-needed progression to tell the story they need to tell.
The second track, ILU AF picks up some of the slack left by the former cover, immediately marked by stronger vocal performance and more esoteric influence. Nearly reminiscent of Dead Can Dance, the synthesizers capture what much darkwave music can only hope to achieve. While some rhythmic and dynamic issues become apparent during the chorus, this song as a whole is significantly stronger, being both more cohesive and more expressive than the cover of Hurt. Yet, brushing against the coattails of their previous album ‘What I Speak I Create” I can’t help but feel that this EP doesn’t feature musicality indicative of A Place Both Wonderful and Strange.
If you’re interested in hearing more by A Place Both Wonderful and Strange you can purchase and stream their music at aplaceboth.bandcamp.com.
For HorrorAddicts.net, this is Jeffrey Kohld Kelly.