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Music Review: Ruby Throat – The Ventriloquist

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It would appear that some good things can come out of a trip on the London Underground after all. In 2006 Katiejane Garside, formerly of British alt-rock band Daisy Chainsaw and Queenadreena, heard Chris Whittingham busking whilst changing platforms deep under the streets of London. They formed a duo, Ruby Throat, and have now released their debut album The Ventriloquist.

The alt-folk album delves into some bleak places as it journeys through English folk and dark Americana. The initial limited edition UK vinyl pressing came out in 2007 and was bound in vintage Red Indian leather giving a good indication of the mysterious vibe created within.

Katiejane’s sometimes childlike, yet always haunting voice rises above an often bleak atmosphere as the duo explore the dark recesses of your mind. It is unlike most of what she has done before in Daisy Chainsaw where their often riotous live performances led to their acclaimed album Love Sick Pleasure.

Her post Chainsaw solo projects, Lalleshwari – Lullabies In A Glass Wilderness and Corps Electriques have already seen her produce some intriguing music. Now with Chris Whittingham she has produced an extraordinarily effective album. It is largely made up of first takes with journeys into improvisational which only helps add to its mystique.

The album was recorded without the presence of an engineer with the intimacy of the duo’s vision captured perfectly. It is as though The Ventriloquist has a spirit presence and a powerfully tangible soul, if this is too fanciful then suffice it to say that it certainly gets under your skin. It is beautifully crafted amid hushed whispers, and stripped down guitar that help open the door on a subconscious world.

You are left with the feeling that once completed the duo must have felt that sending the completed album out was like losing part of their own self. This is a recording that demands to be heard in its entirety rather than sampled or shuffled like much of the throwaway sounds of now.

It can be oddly disturbing like a dream sequence played out on a ghostly gothic backdrop. It can be sometimes uplifting, gently joyful, and always compelling. It is a musical version of going through a door marked ‘private’ only to find something quite extraordinary inside.

“Swan And The Minotaur (Troubled Man)” lures you in like a moth to a flame. Katiejane is in love with a troubled man, it’s an uncomfortable place to be conveyed in a disturbing track. “House Of Thieves” was apparently the first song written by Ruby Throat and pointed the way to the atmosphere that naturally existed in their collaboration.

Themes of depression, and dark melancholy sit alongside the child like innocence of joy and wonder. “Naked Ruby”, the gentle slide of “Salto Angel” and “Lie To Me”, along with the country tinged storybook “Dear Daniel” all further trap you within their own individual and powerful spells. The excellent title track has Katiejan’s voice sounding as though she has been possessed by a long lost Red Indian spirit.

“Ghost Boy” lifts the spirits with a lovely melody and compelling lyrics. It gently leads to the sixteen minute long creation that is the spellbinding centre piece “John 3:16”. This is an incredibly powerful and highly original track. It mysteriously builds from stripped down acoustic and whispered vocals gradually unlocking layers of atmospherics that have you lost within its labyrinth of corridors.

It is like picking out shapes in an open fire whilst watching the sparks fly free threatening to set fire to the carpet. When it finally builds to its unsettling climax it leaves you breathlessly intrigued and dangerously wanting more as your imagination is lured into overdrive. After this exploration deep inside your darker self anything else seems somewhat redundant.

The album ends with the deceptively soothing “Happy Now Pt.2” that is until the lyrics reveal something far more sinister. “Consuela’s Newt” brings this extraordinary album to a close.

If you are one that feels compelled to stand on the edge of cliff tops despite the warnings then this album will satisfy your thirst for the unknown. Or you can take the safer route of journeying into your imagination via this record. Depends what lies there of course.

Ruby Throat have a MySpace page to visit where you can see some superb videos, in particular a captivating version of “Lie To Me”. Katiejane Garside also has her own website which has a superb and often disturbing gallery of images.

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About Jeff Perkins