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Junkmedia Review - A large stride forward
on February 20, 2003
The name says it all. The Black Heart Procession's music is about heartbreak and loss, and on their previous three albums most of the music has provided apt atmospherics for the depressing lyrics. But then there were always a few gems where they let loose and threw some rhythm and tempo into the mix. These were the songs that stood out and hinted at what these guys were capable of, and ultimately kept us listening. On their new album, Amore Del Tropico, the Black Heart Procession begins to deliver on the promise of their previous efforts.
After a very brief intro, the title track "Tropics of Love," kicks in, and it's immediately clear that the Black Heart Procession have expanded their horizons. Most of the painful dirge is gone; in its place are lush arrangements, complete with percussion that borders on Latin at times. The real linchpin of the Black Heart Procession is talented multi-instrumentalist (guitar, piano) Tobias Nathaniel. He's a breath of fresh air in an age when your average indie rocker spends more time getting his/her hair just right than learning to play his/her instrument. Nathaniel's talents provide the foundation for Amore, and his piano lines figure in more prominently than ever (as they should).
But the musical blossoming here goes even further. It's clear that a lot of thought went into this album. Beautiful string arrangements weave in and out of the mix, as do synthesizer and organ, surf guitar, whispers, female backing vocals and their trademark non-standard instruments, the saw. This is an ambitious project, made all the more astounding when you consider that Black Heart Procession recorded and produced it all themselves. Songs like "Invitation" and "Sympathy Crime" come close to Pink Floyd watermarks for a band with a sliver of Floyd's recording budget.
Sounds great, right? More rhythm, less depression, all pulled off with an expert eye towards the craft of making and recording music. This is all true, but the overall tone is still that of the Black Heart Procession. This is not party music. Even when the songs are more uptempo, the key is still minor, and the lyrics are still about heartbreak and loss. Well, supposedly, the lyrics here all tie together into some type of narrative, but the common thread isn't cohesive enough to follow. And Pall Jenkins' voice will always be an acquired taste, even though he's starting to find a better balance between his trademark nasally drone and his more mellow baritone vocals.
The Black Heart Procession is a truly original band, and Amore Del Tropico is a large stride forward for them, a reminder and a promise of their potential. And although they will not win over legions of zany fans and groupies anytime soon, they are still one of the most exciting prospects out there for people who like their music dark, moody and mysterious.