Honeytrap - Petrushka
Dominic Valvona 04/09/2010
Endearingly imbued with the empirical like fairytales of an old Russia, one that includes folklore puppetry and wild outbursts of gypsy campfire revelry in a jiggered, spiky, animated dark woods, London based band Honeytrap mix theatre with a style all of their own making.
Petrushka, their second album, takes its title from the Russian marionette character of the same name, a figure who attracts ridicule, a buffoon and equivalent to a court jester, much like our very own seaside staple Punch. The famous composer Igor Stravinsky wrote a ballet around the much-derided Petrushka, placing him in the company of a ballerina and a Moor, who all come to life when their evil owner plays a magical flute. Unfortunately this cruel man keeps his trio of puppets imprisoned backstage, where they lead a dismal existence, which is exasperated when our protagonist falls in love with the Ballerina only to find her seduced by the Moor. Honeytrap take elements of this story as a basis for some of the material on this album, as well as being illustrated on the cover wearing these characters garbs.
This vehement and ambitious collection of songs cleverly holds itself together with reprises of the main concept, repeating melodic motifs and esoteric themes throughout. A strong influence of the Balkans is prominent with enthusiastic vigorous bouts of Romany inspired folk, full of emotive tribulation, charm and enchantment, alongside a more alternative jumpy indie style, that chops and changes to suit.
On the opening number 'Spit And Fists', Honeytrap twist Talking Heads strutting bridges with arching coarse slashing violins, in a two-minute display of reved-up disjointed harrowing fun. The new-wave Balkan swing is exemplified on 'Roslin Is A Cylon', which uses an Egyptian ska backbeat and drops in liberal doses of colourful surrealist lyrics redolent of David Devant And His Spiritual Wife, and at times The Cure.
Single 'To America', already a favourite of Bowie's, sets up a polka style shindig, complete with wide-eye frenzied strings, a holy male choir and jangling guitars. Honeytrap weave an evanescent cautionary fable of finding that allusive fame beyond our own shores.
One of the more ethereal and bewitching highlights appears in the form of a lushly dotted xylophone twinkly number 'Ocean Talker', a doleful and stirring track encased in the aura of a platitude like 80s. Evoking memories of an early Pulp - the lead vocals stray very close to a more tormented Jarvis Cocker - or some melancholic fey band from Postcard Records golden era, Honeytrap lay on some pained heartache, even going as far as to include some sample of French noir as an intro.
Breaking up the album is a couple of haunted vignette bookends. 'Death Of Petruska' and 'Apparition Of Petrushka' could have both been snatched from Stravinsky's ballet, with their intricate plucked violins and sweeping classical moody soundscapes, punctured by some shifting dark synthesizers.
Throughout the album both the vocals of Big Dan, Dan Simons and Sophie Dodds work extremely well together, with Dodds sounding more wistful and innocent against the often-strained impulsive tones of the males. Often beguiling and pleasantly playful, Honeytrap's Petrushka perfectly straddles the exotic and the curiously old world feel of fairytales, a fairytale conjured up in the bands own imagination.
A disjointed travelling gypsy indie band that belong equally to the Edinburgh fringe as the usual music venues, they produce their first minor opus on their own new label (Crooked Teeth Recording Club), a glorious start to what I hope is a long career.
Release date: 06/09/2010