Black Sun Productions and Val Denham – Somewhere Between Desire and Despair (CD, Tourette Records)

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black sun productions val denham

Black Sun Productions teams up with vocalist/artist Val Denham for this lengthy, hour-long album of drone cuts, cabaret music, and spoken word poetry. Denham is known in the musical world for her vocal stylings, and Somewhere Between Desire and Despair utilizes her array of singing/howling/speaking in various ways.

Spanning fifteen tracks, there’s no dearth of sound throughout the album. Black Sun Productions provides backdrops and instrumentation in different degrees; there’s the droning of “A Tale of Two Cities,” throbbing away to the spoken word of Denham, or the rap beat of “Stars” to guide the mostly rhythmic track. They know when to emphasize – see “Cobalt Blue” or “We Are the Monsters” – and when to allow Denham room for the manic poetry.

However, these tracks are best when Denham’s vocals are used more for noise and sound than for singing, because she has a tendency to be quite screeching in some tracks that center around her arrangements and poetry. “Emerald Green” is the most egregious offender, Denham’s voice a cacophony of howls and yelps that burns the ears, with “Stars” being a close second. It’s when Denham’s voice is subdued and used as accompanying drone that things play out quite nicely, like the final two tracks “Val Ium” and “Time Uncaptured.”

What we’re left with is a multifaceted album that is sometimes difficult to sit through. Denham’s lyrics about transgenderism and spirituality are certainly interesting, but they work best when her voice is toned down to a dull roar rather than a scream. Black Sun Productions does a good job accompanying her work, though: they’re adept at switching off between noisier output and cabaret, pop sensibility and drone.

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