The Real Tuesday Weld
The London Book of the Dead
August 28th, 2007
London Book of the Dead is a noir dream. When met with heavy eyelids it imagines a world of midnight blacks and Jessica Rabbit reds. It emotes the warmth suffered under the lights of a burlesque stage, and the nostalgic chill of a near empty bar—dimly lit for the sake of confidentiality. A symbiosis of electronic accents and vinyl imperfections, this dose of art and sex isn’t so much conceptual as it is invocative, shuttling between clarinet swing and sampled sound bytes. I can’t help but imagine that Stephen Coates considers himself a fan of Matt Johnson’s eclectic style. Although this should come as no surprise; both men are clearly influenced by the myriad of soundscapes carved from the social soil of the early to mid twentieth century. It is a project that reaches back to an already immortal era to inflict the markings of post-modernity on what some would claim to be the golden age of music. It refuses the paradigmatic egocentricity of generational degeneracy. The jazz/rag era was not the end of history.
London Book of the Dead is medicated schizophrenia. Among the collage of gypsy strings, cabaret, and Brit pop, Coates sometimes sounds as if he is trapped in a Steamboat Willie world, contained by a two-dimensional, cartoonish fantasy. The record’s most manic moments can be uneven and discomfiting. But if the project is properly understood, it reveals a beautiful and sentimental creation that acknowledges the compromises we make against our own character and the distance we are from our idealized life. Self-inflicted wounds are often the rule rather than the exception. The music of London Book is dense and rich with acute attention to detail. The textural mapping of electronic beats over organic instruments is not necessarily the newest approach to music making, but Coates is effective nontheless. While every song on the record may not be appropriate for every mood, every song has its proper context; and in that context it succeeds, sometimes with stunning perfection— often a most gorgeous sedative.
At The House Of The Clerkenwell Kid- 2001
I, Lucifer- 2002
Les Aperitifs et Les Digestifs- 2004
The Return of the Clerkenwell Kid- 2005
“Dreams That Money Can Buy”- 2006
At the End of the World- 2008