Monday, November 24, 2014

Fusions Of Fright: The Parlor Trick

 ~by Marie Robinson

Join us again for another round of Fusions of Fright, Fascination With Fear’s monthly music article!

No artist is ever pleased.
There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.
There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction;
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes us more alive than the others.

(album cover)
This poem by Martha Graham is the inspiration for the album, A Blessed Unrest by The Parlour Trick. The Parlour Trick is a project that is made from the combined efforts of Meredith Yayanos and Dan Cantrell who are both accomplished composer and multi-instrumentalists. They began collaborating on the album in 2009 in Oakland, California and in 2012, after producing enough for a record, began a Kickstarter for A Blessed Unrest. Since meeting their goal the record has been made available in digital, CD and vinyl formats, although all the vinyl pressings have sadly sold out.

A Blessed Unrest is a mostly instrumental album that aims to capture the tone of Victorian spiritualism, among other things. The album was inspired by Margaret Yayanos’ interest with Victorianism and its darker aspects, such as its attitude towards death and the afterlife and its ideas concerning “female hysteria”. An excerpt from their website says that, “Many of the pieces composed or co-composed by Yayanos are conscious riffs off (t)rapping of Spiritualism and lingering concepts of the “monstrous feminine”.

Photo by Audrey Penven
While the songs all certainly fit together, there are varying styles throughout the album. “Half Sick of Shadows”, “Mare Desiderii”, and “Planchette” are all piano-driven. The first is a single, if the album were to properly have one, and a music video was recorded for it featuring dancer Rachel Brice. “Half Sick of Shadows” may be my favorite track, though it isn’t easy to pick one. It sounds as if it should be played in—well—a parlour, with a crackling fire in the hearth and some quiet evil descending. It could easily fit into some supernatural period-piece film, playing as the title cards roll.

“The Lady of the House of Love” is a song of madness, or perhaps the struggle to prove one’s sanity. The ferocious driving riff gives away to sorrow, desperation and turmoil. It was a rustic, folky and Eastern European sound that sets it apart from the rest of the songs. A music video for this song was supposed to have been made but never seems to have been completed.

Poster by Ellen Rogers
The 8th track, “Leafy Sea Dragon Nursery” is a ghostly tune that one might hear echoing off the walls in an abandoned nursery, long-since inhabited by children or anything living. Among the dirty and discarded toys strewn along the floor, one might pick up a music box, only to open it and hear this music issue forth.

“Sheol” is another favorite of mine for its strange and powerfully atmospheric qualities. A particularly eerie track, it is composed from the theremin, a brilliantly creepy instrument that is controlled without even having to be touched. The sound is incredibly unique and is an automatic mood-setter. The scene I have pictured in my mind for “Sheol” is an empty and vast field covered by a night sky black and sequined with stars. But there aren’t just stars up above… you find yourself gazing up in awe, transfixed by the flashing colors of light and the sweet, though unsettling, sounds that echo over the land, wondering—and secretly fearing—that you aren’t as alone as you think.

A Blessed Unrest is a beautiful and haunting debut album from The Parlour Trick, and hopefully not their last. You can stream their entire album for free at their bandcamp (, and learn more about them on their website ( You can watch the video for “Half Sick of Shadows” below.

The Parlour Trick: "Half Sick of Shadows" (Starring Rachel Brice) from Theremina on Vimeo.

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