I’ve talked about other Eric Chenaux discs before, and this one is similar to those–very mellow with Chenaux’s gentle voice running through some melodies. The instruments include electric guitar, 12 string banjo, lap steel guitar, harmonica, electric banjo, portable sample keyboard and drums.
It’s never always clear to me what he’s signing about because his words are stretched out quite long and I’m often very distracted by the music that is accompanying the songs.
The first song “Skullsplitter” is in no way what you might be expecting from a song with that title. There are cymbals, but no real drums, there’s a scratchy sound like a violin (although none are listed in the credits so perhaps it is samples) and what sounds like randomly plucked notes on a muted banjo. The martial drums on track 2, “Worm and Gear” really help to coalesce the elements of this song so you can really appreciate what Chenaux is doing here. “I Can See It Now” has a woozy almost drunken feeling. Chenaux has such a pretty voice that you want to lean in but the music seems so unusual.
Later in the disc, “Memories Are No Treasure” is catchy with a nice vocal melody, showing that Chenaux can write a more conventional song. “White Dwarf White Sea” has a banjo line that has always reminded me of lines from “God Bless America”–in the middle of the riff, the banjo seems to play “from the mountains to the prairie.” “Ronnie-May” has a very catchy county melody. A pretty wild (genuinely wild) guitar solo, breathes crazy life into the record. “However Wildly We Dream” concludes the record with that same kind of drunken feel (the drums are just insane).
I definitely didn’t enjoy this one as much as his other discs
[READ: April 7, 2014] Balfour and Meriwether in The Vampire of Kabul
This is a short story that I discovered because I enjoyed the (written later but not impacting this story in any way) novella that came out this year.
Abraham has written three stories about these two turn of the 20th century “detectives.” They are like a supernatural Holmes & Watson (with a tad more violence). In this story, which, again, is completely independent of the others, Meriwether & Balfour are sitting at home on a December night in 188- bored out of their minds.
Just as Meriwether says he wishes that something would break their malaise a ninja comes crashing through their giant window. In a trice she has a gun at Balfour’s head. Meriwether is helpless to assist. But they both recognize who it is almost immediately–Maria Feodorovan, the czarina of Russia and sworn enemy of Meriwether & Balfour. As the dust clears, we learn what Maria is here for–she is daring to ask for help from our duo.
It appears that the Czar has gone mad. But not from natural causes–someone or something attacked him. There was “an ectoplasmic darkness” in the corners of the room and while he has recovered somewhat, it seems that his mind is no longer his own. And, she explains based on overheard knowledge that the Queen of England is next. As she says this, the police rush in to say that The Queen has been attacked.
The attacker is suggested to be Artyadaji, an Afghan bogeyman. There is dismissive chuckling at this idea, until they see the queen acting very peculiar and they see that there is some kind of ectoplamsic residue in the room. While they are discussing the matter, the queen turns on everyone in the room with the force of a larger man. After some consideration they suspect a Mohammedan wizard is invoking the djinn.
They track the villain to a warehouse, but he is prepared for them and through a series of magical spells, he escapes. Our heroes manage to track down someone who might give them a lead but he claims to know nothing. But this nothing proves to be a clue and with the help of everyone (the Czarina included) that they are able to track down the perpetrators and decipher just what the heck is going on (yes, that’s a spoiler, but of course they succeed–the joy is reading about how).
I really enjoy the elliptical nature of these stories. We really don’t know much more about these two than what happens in the stories. We don’t even really know what their “jobs” actually are. But it’s a fun to imagine that there are dozens of these stories floating around in Meriwhether’s diaries that will see the light of day someday.
“The Vampire of Kabul” is available at Subterranean Press.