The concluding part of our 2014 ‘choice’ albums list; from the switchblade adolescent 80s pop of Tampa Bay’s Merchandise to the harrowing whipped and harangued drone partnership of Scott Walker + Sunn O))). We have plumbed the depths and scaled the aural heights to chose a inimitable, eclectic mix of albums, and some EPs for you to enjoy and seek out. Though there are the occasional big-hitters and some unsurprising entries, many of our choices have failed to garner the attention they deserve, forgotten or lacking the promotion and support to break through the hubris. For better or worse, in the spirit of our stoic independence, some of these albums won’t have been picked up or even featured in any other set of lists.
Each album continues in alphabetical order. Click on the image and below the quotes to read the full review.
Merchandise ‘After The End’ (4AD)
Tampa Bay’s wild boys of sulky twanged rock and Chet Baker fatalistic jazz, Merchandise surprised many as they moved to the 4AD record label in 2014. A new sound for a new epoch, the band leaned towards the sophisticated lilting melodic pop of 80s Athens, Georgia, as they extended their ranks and brought in Gareth Jones (famously relocated Depeche Mode to the Hansa studios in Berlin and also worked on records from Interpol, These New Puritans and Grizzly Bear) on production. After The End is a subtle and sophisticated pop affair; an unaltered appropriation of another generations adolescence; a love letter to Howard Deuth’s 80s movies, sealed with a Psychedelic Furs kiss-off, yet congruously apt with modern times.
Dominic Valvona writes:
‘Moping around the darkened swamplands and back lots of a southern sunshine state in existential, switchblade, angst, Tampa Bay’s lost boys once again shift closer to a subtler, rounded and cerebral pop ascetic. Despite all the talk of their DIY punk and hardcore roots – living and recording together in communal bliss – Merchandise have always flirted with a Howard Deuth and John Hughes vision of 80s adolescence. On their latest transmission from the margins they effortlessly slip between the intellectual aloof alternative rock – the Athens, Georgia scene in particular – of that decade’s college radio stations, and the ray ban donned pop of more recent times as they peruse an imaginary teen doom film set.
With a far more patient, effortless and breezy demeanor, those maladies remain less intensive, drawn-out from a mostly melodic envelope of multiple guitar tracks. A case in point is the rattlesnake tambourine accented and Gothic Talk Talk piano spanked title track, appearing as the penultimate, frayed emotional downer. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Merchandise adopt – and the jury’s out on this one – a palm tree patterned short-sleeved wearing Mott The Hopple guise for the kooky ‘awaiting on a call’ love sick phaser-beamed ‘Telephone’. A most peculiar, almost old-fashioned vernacular roll back, that once again recalls some hazy 80s high school drama (more Rumble Fish than Ferris Bueller).’
The Ministry Of Wolves ‘Music From Republik Der Wölfe’ (Mute)
Assembled in 2014 for Claudia Bauer and Paul Wallfisch‘s Republik Der Wölfe: A Fairytale Massacre With Live Music!, Theater Dortmund staged production of The Brother Grimm’s fairytales, – in particular, referencing and taking inspiration from Anne Sexton‘s iconic 70s revisionist tome Transformations; itself a candid, unforgiving psychological retelling of the Brother Grimm’s originals – the miscreant troupe of Bad Seeds and Crime And The City Solution band members, Mick Harvey, Alexander Haacke, Danielle De Picciotto, provided the music and narration with relish and aplomb. Since its inaugural opening night the project has spiralled, with this audio soundtrack and a subsequent, Happily Ever After, volume of German and unheard material exclusives. Devoid of the visual, this musical envisioned landscape, dotted with a cast of traumatic, cancerous and prying on our self-conscious devilish characters – including the most disturbing portrayal of the poisoned, inner self, dwarf, Rumpelstiltskin I’ve ever heard; delivered with creepy gusto by Haacke -, works just as well in isolation; perfectly conveying and stirring the imagination to construct its own picture show of psychological alarm.
‘Original characters that we’ve grown to love, hate, revile or recoil from, are transposed into the darker parts of our psyche. Those parable like lessons and auguries of danger get kicked around in a quasi-junkie Burroughs nightmare of cynicism and surreal terror. Tucked into a all too knowing grown ups world of jealousy and greed, Picciotto plays the part of storyteller – in this case switched, as I’ve already mentioned, from the usual young, naïve heroine into a middle-aged witch – on the opening account, ‘The Gold Key’. It’s followed by the Teutonic heavy drawling gusto of Hacke’s ‘Rumpelstiltskin’; played up to full effect, as the poisoned dwarf is revealed to be our doppelganger, ‘the enemy within’, and the spilt personality waiting to cut its way out of all of us. Sounding quite like a missing Amon Duul II number from theHi Jack era, the song’s maligned and mischievous protagonist elicits a kind of sympathy: ‘No child will ever call me Papa’. Condemned to play the part of cruel interloper, poor old Rumpelstiltskin exists to remind us of our demonic, primal nature: a nagging inner soul tempting us to commit hari-kari on restraint.
The levels of macabre are amped up and the underlying psychosis adroitly delivered with atmospheric relish; our cast of ‘make-believe’ characters all too fallible human traits and sufferings enriched with a Murder Ballads style makeover, part Gothic part horrid histories.’
Noura Mint Seymali ‘Tzenni’ (Glitterbeat Records)
Though we have gone for a alphabetical list rather than numerical order of importance, the mesmerising, bordering on the transcendental, Tzenni album from the master griot performer Noura Mint Seymali, has been on one constant loop at Monolith Cocktail HQ – also one of the highlights of our Sunday Social residency. With a voice that could stop traffic, wailing in diaphanous paean or plaintive warning, Noura has woven the atavistic art of the Mauritian poet/storyteller with sonorous backbeats and psychedelia to produce an entrancing masterpiece.
‘The technicalities, pentatonic melodies and the fundamental mechanics aside, nothing can quite prepare you for that opening atavistic, panoramic vocal, and off-kilter kick-drum and snare; an ancestral linage that reaches back a thousand odd years, given the most electric crisp production, magically restores your faith in finding new music that can resonate and move you in equal measure. The afflatus titular experience channeled with energetic passion and poetic lament, revolves around the whirling – and at its peak moment of epiphany, a fervour – dance. Performed over time under the desert skies and khaima tents, by the Moorish griots, this cyclonic Hassaniya worded movement (which variously translates as, ‘to circulate’, ‘to spin’ or ‘to turn’) that enacts the orbiting solar system and with it all the elements (wind and tides) on Earth, is hypnotically invigorating.
From the German label, Glitterbeat Records, this latest Maghreb African transmission follows in the wake of the equally compelling electric transcendent desert blues of Tamikrest, Dirt Music, Samba Touré and the Bedouin diaphanous song of Aziza Brahim. Tzenni by Noura Mint Seymali and her accompanying clan make suggestive musical and social/political connections with all of these groups and artists. Hailing from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, nestled in between Algeria, Senegal, Mali and the Western Sahara, with the Atlantic lapping its shoreline, Noura keeps tradition alive in a modern, tumultuous, climate. Her homeland – run ever since a coup in 2008, by the former general Mohamed Ould Abdul Aziz, duly elected president in 2009 – was rocked by the immolation sparked Arab Spring and subsequent youth movement protests, all of which were violently suppressed by the authorities. Add the omnipresent problems of FGM, child labour and human trafficking to the equation and you have enough catalysts to last a lifetime. However, Noura’s veracious commanding voice responds with a dualistic spirit, the balance of light and shade putting a mostly positive, if not thumping backbeat, to forlorn and mourning.’
John MOuse ‘The Death Of John MOuse’ (Crocfingers)
A poignant, often sneering and resigned, bulletin from the front line of austerity Britain – and in this case, Wales – , John MOuse‘s latest songbook is his most accomplished yet. With an ear for the radio but an uncompromising spirit of healthy contempt for the mainstream – his sinewy industrial jazz centrepiece, ‘Ilka Moor’, an anvil-beating, distressed bird-finger of avant-hardcore proportions -, the, we hope premature premonition of his own demise, Death Of John MOuse finds moments of reflection and pride amongst the cast of bleak characters and all too familiar, zero-hour contract, care home and cut-pice supermarket scenery. The growing pains of losing touch with friends from your youth; the events and observations that lead to divorce; mortality’s inevitable curse; and the daily grind to keep keeping on may suggest a bleak symphony of morose. But this couldn’t be further from the truth, as John rattles off both heartwarming and triumphant indie anthems that recall The Smiths, ATV, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and The Fall, without succumbing to pity or despondency. Fair enough, ‘Robbie Savage’ will make you cry, but for all the right reasons. Mark our words well, one of 2014’s most tearfully somber but beautifully crafted songs, from one of the best albums and songwriters.
‘Brought to vivid life in a series of colliery-smirched terraced house dioramas, MOuse’s prematurely declared demise entitled songbook is a poignant, and throughout laugh or you’d cry, observation of his own childhood and its impact upon the present. But if there was a common theme sufficed throughout the album’s eleven-tracks, it would in the form of a resigned augur that we are prone to repeat our own parents mistakes and failings and that we often find sanctuary in the comforts of the past, even when fraught with episodes of horror. It is what shapes us.’
Henri-Pierre Noël ‘One More Step’ (Wah Wah 45s)
The cultural heritage of the much-troubled – humanitarian crisis prone – Haiti has imbued, beguiled and charged albums by The Arcade Fire (who have an ancestral connection to the island through Régine Chassagne) and tUnE-yArDs, and paired-up local poet/writer legend Frankétienne with experimental Scottish guitarist Mark Mulholland for the Chaophonies collaboration. There has also been a rafter of compilations, including Strut Records Haiti Direct, to showcase the islands, hitherto forgotten or left dormant, 60s and 70s music scene. And now, following on from a earlier volume of the travelling Haitian funk pianist, Henri-Pierre Noël‘s dance floor classic crossover, One More Step gets a timely re-release – originally confined to a limited edition pressing in the 80s. Moving to Canada from his home, the former émigré took a dose of Kompa funk, sprinkled on top some Latin sauntering grooves and merged the two with North American jazz and disco to create the most infectious hybrid. Slick and oozing sophistication, the production is precise but the rhythms are loose. An irresistible call to the floor.
‘A moiety, congruous to the previously rediscovered and also re-issued by Wah Wah 45s, Piano suite (released in 2012), One More Step attunes the classicism and amps up the funk and soul with a chorus of rasping horns and spiritually meditative Hammond organ. With an omnivorous craving, Noël loosely crosses over into a range of appetising styles; sweetly caressing gospel and narrating in a Barry White-esque deep, husky burr, on the love lost lullaby ‘Will Come A Day’, and moseying into Stax, lamps-turned-down-low, balladry on ‘Bluesy Mood’.
Silky smooth with the odd rough and dirty edge, Noel’s swanky sonorous chops splash and spray across the ivory, sliding up and down the scales until they find a neat spot to rattle of the most melodically twinkly solo.’
Papernut Cambridge ‘There’s No Underground’ (Gare Du Nord Records)
A pastoral psychedelic call from the shire-county’s of south-east England, Ian Button and his Papernut Cambridge collaborative troupe of Kent and Estuary outcasts, mine the great and good of both the beat group 60s, revivalist 80s and Brit-pop 90s to produce their own Village Green Preservation Society monument. Lying between the bright lights of London and Paris, on the Eurostar flyby, There’s No Underground reflects its surroundings; whether harking dreamily to faraway places with the wistful country spirit of Graham Nash and Manfred Mann or waiting for the train that never arrives on a provincial station platform with The Stone Roses and The LA’s. Indebted to its past, Button nevertheless enthuses with a contemporary, maverick feel, the loneliness, and sometimes paranoia of isolation, whilst producing some cracking pop-sike tunes.
‘Though conceived and led by Button, the Papernut is a collaborative affair, roping in a rabble of guests for a nostalgic tour of both the mind and the estuary landscape – which extends to a dreamily visit across the Channel to France on the languorous Louie Louie Glam back beat ‘St J’étais Français’. Featuring Hefner band members Darren Haymen, and Jack Hayter plus ex-Death In Vegas band mate, Matt Flint and both regular contributors and a peripheral cast, coaxed from the Mary Epworth (who appears herself, on vocals, percussion and ocarina) band, Picturebox and Belakiss, the extended group craft a paisley-shirted love letter. The playing never cramped or over-indulged is both purposefully ambitious (if low key) and melodically earnest. Even with the obvious signposts and appropriation, Button and his chums make those influences their own, whether it’s the Floydian (read Syd Barrett period) Braque kaleidoscope of that paranoia induced opener or the bastardised Rocky Horror ‘Time Warp’ as re-imagined by Mott the Hopple ‘Nutflake Social’.
Far too nuanced and thoughtful as to be labeled a psych throwback, Papernut Cambridge have basked in the resonant afterglow of England’s rich outsider history of alternative pop and esoteric beat groups to create a cherished memory of their very own.’
Robert Plant And The Sensational Space Shifters ‘Lullaby And…The Ceaseless Roar’ (Nonesuch/Warner Bros.)
To our eternal shame, we never managed to get around to reviewing Robert Plant‘s tenth, and possibly finest adroit, solo album, Lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar. The first recording with his regular backing band The Sensational Space Shifters, Plant’s latest progressive peregrination traverses an amorphous sound map of Celtic, African, the deep south and turbulent high seas misadventure influences. Unhelpfully tethered to the Led Zeppelin that made him, the sagacious doyen of rock has done everything he can to pursue a distinctive pathway through folk, roots and world music. Of course, those songs of yore are his, and so why shouldn’t he incorporate them to his new live sound. But if anything this enlightening songbook, filled with a lived-in quality and displaying a vocal range that is mostly refined, brooding and occasional pitched higher in plaintive yearning, proves that his back catalogue no longer needs to be revitalised or brandished. This latest opus of mystery, lament and beauty is a readymade classic.
Ty Segall ‘Manipulator’ (Drag City)
Opening with garage Gothic organ – somewhere between The Count Five and Inspiral Carpets – San Francisco based Ty Segall “Manipulates” the last forty years of staccato jangled psych, smeared glam booted, downer, drone and acid rock to create a dynamic, whipped into shape triumph. Whereas Ariel Pink often lurches into indulgence, Ty remains melodic and tunefully aware throughout; balancing cynical relished neighing, scuzzed and squealing guitar riffs with Beatles-esque strings and diaphanous Bolan rock’n’roll. Sean Bw Parker positively gushed with reverence for this album, and why no one could ever live up to those evangelical heights, Ty damn well tries.
Sean Bw Parker writes:
‘It’s phenomenally good. Fucking cracking, shit-hot, addictive, never to be lost smashes, every one. It’s almost good enough to make people buy it online. Such quips shouldn’t be here actually – my humour doesn’t stand up to the sheer integrity, craftsmanship, feeling, and pure love of the form contained in this hour of music.
What Ty Segall has become on Manipulator is a postmodern magician to send his competitors scurrying – Coyne, Malkmus, Hansen, Rhys, Mason…brilliant as you are, there’s a new master in town, and he has rather raised the bar. My worthy paymasters at the Monolith Cocktail won’t be having with graded reviews – but if they did, this motherfucker would be off the scale. Play this album at full volume, on repeat, for a week. Then press repeat. Ok, go on then, one more.’
tUnE-yArDs ‘Nikki Nack’ (4AD)
Nikki Nack , or as I like d to call it: “America eats its young” (demonstrated, quite literally, on the album’s ‘Why Do We Dine On The Tots?” vignette), is a polygenesis musical menagerie of fluorescent coloured R&B, Haitian rhythms, and African fervour. A multilayered bubblegum soundtrack to our times, Merrill Garbus‘ most soulful turn yet as the alter-ego tUnE-yArDs, laments the travesties that have left no corner of the globe untouched, with an emphasis on the humanitarian problems that still dominate Haiti, after the crippling catastrophic 2010 earthquake. For the very first time seeking outside help on production, Garbus brings in both Malay (Big Boi, Alicia Keys, Frank Ocean) and John Hill (M.I.A. and Rihanna) to give her amorphous, world tour sounds some gleaming polish, warping sonorous bass and kick.
‘A hyperactive sound-clash, an electric kool-aid luminous flavour of bubblegum pop, Nikki Nackis once again fuelled by a larger than life version of African rhythms and sounds, with Merrill digging deeper than ever to pull out something fresh. That vocal has gone even further in embracing that continents soul, swooning in almost creole lullaby (‘Look Around’) and gospel Soweto township (‘Find A New Way’) tones throughout. A definite melodious, infectious and dare say commercial bent makes this album a lot more accessible than its much acclaimed w h o k i l l predecessor; a result of handing over some of the material to the production talent of Malay (Big Boi, Alicia Keys and Frank Ocean) and John Hill (M.I.A and Rihanna). Both producers indelible influence has seeped in, with the album taking a distinct R&B turn down a very unconventional highway and giving a sweetly, soulful urban gleam to the marvellous songs ‘Stop The Man’ and ‘Wait For A Minute’.
Merge this with spritely, sparkly Baroque reggae, Pee-Wees Playhouse, Buffalo Girls, Laurie Anderson, ESG, Brain Eno & David Byrne’s ‘Regiment’ from My Life In The Bush of Ghosts (‘Manchild’) and Kellis and you are half way to capturing the brilliance of Merrill’s nuanced web of influences. All of which seem less chaotic than before; the clattering beats, bit crusher and speed shift effects no matter how heavy, no longer competing with each other for attention. And though it may not quite have the same impact as that last remarkable LP, it is a far more subtle, polished but, actually, better record; one that just keeps giving.’
The Van Allen Belt ‘Heaven On A Branch’
At the eye of a magical, celestial maelstrom of cinematic majesty and omnivorous referenced whirlwind, The Van Allen Belt‘s vocal vessel, Tamer Kamin ethereal swoons and coos remain an undiscovered treat for the unsuspecting. The group’s amorphous mix of Lee Hazelwood, celluloid and trip hop is an overwhelming tour de force; shifting and progressing in a state of constant flux. Heaven On A Branch doesn’t really sound like anything else at present (Debbie Harry singing psychedelic arias over a mash up of Galaxie 500 and Moloko is close but still wide of the mark), and if there was any justice this album would be in every top list this year. Instead it’s up to the little men and women, on the pit face of music, to shout the clarion call. Justly so, Ayfer Simms wrote one of the most beautifully descriptive reviews ever for this LP.
Ayfer Simms writes:
‘Look up! Past the stratosphere, there is a psychedelic wavelength trapping a ghostly clamour, a cool jazzy voice, traces of an older era of sounds, perfectly paired, bred with something new, a feel, a new genre perhaps that has no label as yet. It is possible to name the instruments one by one, even describe the vocalist’s suave confident voice that echoes above our heads, yet put all together this become a breathless orchestra, upbeat and melodious that forbids any sorts of appellations: “don’t give her any, she don’t need none, she don’t need none”. Indeed, we want to apply this for the Van Allen Belt as they pull us in a trance like mood for a minute before throwing us in a befuddled happiness the next. The tracks are like a roller coaster, sounds from the past swirling above our world while carrying the darkest of us with it.
The 1960’s atmosphere is well present, the vocals, the instruments like trumpets and the echoing melodies as well as some references to that époque’s mythical pop disco are magnetic to say the least. “I wish I could see you all the time”; close your eyes now, and feel the breeze, the vintage air from the gleaming and sizzling sounds, the one millions little details, the tunnel of sounds, “you make my heart beat so fast”, this is a new kind of gospel, a busy music box where the sound bursts as soon as released. Who can tame the trumpets, the guitars and the drums?
The name of the band taken from the radiation strip around the earth is exquisitely chosen and perfectly fits the stance of the band: What are we but invisible energetic charged particles?’
Various ‘CAM 1’ (Peski Records)
A collection, and the only compilation to make our list, of the strange and most fantastic kosmiche style suites and sketches from Wales, Cam 1 highlights tracks from the Cam o’r Tywyllwch (A Step From The Darkness) radio show, broadcast both on Radio Cardiff and Resonance FM (in London). Curated by Welsh electronica siren Gwenno Saunders and Peski Records, this “oddity” showcase introduced many of us, for the first time, to the talents of Sky Record imbued, sonic adventurer along the Teutonic futurist highway, R.Seiliog, and the burbling ominous soundtrack maverick, Location Baked. Other notables on this bumpy voyage included the Artificial Intelligence redolent Horses and lo fi, muffler disco death Llion Swyd; both offering multiple perspectives from across the border on the avant-garde recesses of electronica.
‘An inimitable, if congruous somehow, mix of both newcomers and established artists, the collection moves along in the manner of a fluctuating peregrination, thrusting and meandering through cascading space paeans, brief sound clips and ominous industrial paranormal soundtracks. Sucked through the rattling cyclonic introduction of the titular vortex into the pleasant, magical Zuckerzeit disco bounce of R. Seiliog’s motorik stardust covered, ‘Pysgod’, then transported to an earlier age of punch-holed computing with the analogue data feeding ‘Cymylog Ddu’ by David Mysterious, we’re already experiencing a veritable sonic palette of escapism and evocation in just the opening seven-minutes.
In all senses of the term, ‘out there’, this compilation of space oddities and earthy primal investigations lure the Welsh underground to the surface, if only for a short breather. The quality control has been used sparingly, as the curators opt for a challenging mix, with some tracks inevitably more memorable and interesting than others. It’s a positive step in the right direction however, and we hope to see this burgeoning series continue to illuminate the much forgotten music scene across the boarder.’
Verckys et L’Orchestre Vévé ‘Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969 – 1978’ (Analog Africa)
Rediscovering some hot-footing funk and psychedelic rumba from the Congo, Analog Africa’s latest compilation highlights the polygenesis back catalogue of Verckys. Sealed with approval by none other than the anointed Godfather of soul, James Brown, as ‘Mister Dynamite’ upon seeing Verckys perform in Kinshasa during the 70s, this collection of feverish Afro Funk, Latin grooves and organ jerks chronicles some of the Congolese polymaths most vibrant and nimble fret work, and includes some rare recordings – previously unheard outside Africa – form his 1974 Kenyan sessions. Giving The Meters a run for their money the sounds recall the Bayou and float across to Cuba, but remain inherently African.
‘Alongside the more familiar “stormers”, Redjeb has also wrestled up some of the Congo soul man’s hitherto rare and unheard outside Africa, recordings from his 1974 sessions in the neighbouring Kenya – ‘Bassala Hot’, ‘Cheka Sana’ and ‘Talali Talala’, produced specially for the Kenyan market, during his month long tour of the country.
Picking up on the first of that trio of rarities, Basssala Hot kicks the compilation off with a seven-minute hot-strut down the sweltering Kinshasa streets, with one of those Orleans’ style filthy grooves, backed by a languid drum shuffle, feverish congas, chugging guitar riff and melting saxophone. Setting the scene then with an Afrobeat staple rhythm, Verckys skips to the famous homegrown lilt of the Congolese rhumba on ‘Ye Nini’. Placably swooning and floating along to a pleasantly incessant South American vibe, the renowned sound of 70s Congo, drifts in beguilingly. Ennui setting in already, Verckys adds a mild touch of psychedelia to the rhumba to create another of his subgenre interpretations with the two-speed ‘Sisa Motema’ and ‘Zonga Paralise’. Sisa reverberates with the distant atavistic song of Cuba, but ends up shuffling to an inherently Afrorock beat with blasting saxophone punctuated Stax revue stabs; Zonga goes from a Cuban lullaby to a ringside J.B’s.’
Scott Walker + Sunn O))) ‘Soused’ (4AD)
The morbidly morose and curious unholy union of the drone lords of misrule, Sunn O))), and Scott Walker has unleashed a whip-lashed, martyrdom, beast of an LP. Unsurprisingly harrowing – with the odd Bisch Bosh giggle -, on dirge-y and malcontent form, Soused pushed Walker’s collaborators to the limit; the signature seeping beds of gut-wrenching, sonorous noise seems to go deeper, and were for the first time balanced with shorter, stabbing and squealing displays of wailing heavy rock riffage. A disturbing odyssey that absorbs the pains and rapture of screen idols enacting a cycle of penance, Biblical infanticide and myth, can’t help but leave a lingering sour taste of realism, scarring the listener, but in a good way: trust me. As the “meme” culture of buzz feed et al attempts to wash away or at least ignore society and the establishments sins with trivia in the form a of a snappy, condensed list, Walker and his cohorts rouse his into facing the darkest recesses.
‘Once again, Daemonic forces have conspired. The result, a five act guttural opus, entitled Soused – in this instance the title is to be taken as a plunging or submersion into liquid or water, rather than a slang for hard liquor intoxication (though if it were, the brew on offer would be hemlock!).
Both parties in this experiment prove their mettle, reinforcing their reputations but producing an album that is not only accessible to the devotees and followers but also those who’ve previously skirted around taking a walk through the catacombs of the bleakest recesses of a conflicted mind.’