Spooky Men of the West launch new album

"Created some time ago in 2005, The Spooky Men of the West is Stephen Taberner's twisted vision for the western chapter of the The Spooky Men's Chorale.

This now rogue chapter has expanded its repertoire with their own musical masterpieces, drawing on personal feelings and other things.

The Spooky men of the West seems to have been formed with no end in mind - luckily, cos there's no sign of stopping them now..."

"We never meant to come here" is the brand new EP from The Spooky Men of the West. A sixteen voice male acapella choir, the Spooky Men of the West explore (or should that be "subjugate"?) a range of musical styles from traditional Georgian table singing to contemporary and original works. Their sound has been said to be "gentle and sad, even sweet, but also sexy, powerful and unmistakably male". One newspaper report aptly describes them as "a group of wierdos who sing".

"We Never Meant to Come Here" includes six new songs that depart from Stephen Taberner's Spooky repertoire. "Navigation" is an original song by the Spooks, with music by Spookmeister Ryan Morrison. "Delilah" (Mason & Reed) and "When You Sleep" (CAKE) are surprisingly recognisable after being given a Spooky makeover. "Varjele" was written by Digby Hill, loosely based on a Finnish folk song, and "Mirangula" is a traditional Georgian lament. The "Norwegian Sailors Chorus" is Wagner as you have never heard him before, and possibly never want to hear him again.

Rather than trying to explain what this is about, check this out:

"When You Sleep" is Simon Nield's beautiful interpretation of the song by CAKE. To call it a cover is almost unfair because this version actually has a melody, something that is missing from the catchy but rather tuneless original. I guess this song appeals to my sense of strange, which makes it a personal favourite. Another stand-out track for me is Digby Hill's rousing arrangment of "Varjele", which perfectly sets the mood for marauding. And who else but the Spooks could turn a Wagnerian drinking chorus into a treatise on the demise of bathtime. I hope they're not suggesting we drink the bathwater...

I have just two tiny criticisms of this album. Firstly, the opening track "Navigation" is too short. Just as the song gathers momentum its finished - perhaps that's the point the song is making, but I felt I wanted more of the wonderful "home is where I hang my hat" motif. Secondly, while the CD sounds great it lacks some of the energy of the live performances, but I guess this is always the trade-off with studio recordings.

My advice is to get this CD but go see them live if you can, because part of the Spooky experience is that dissonance between the warm, wonderful evocative sound and their strange understated deadpan humour. If you're in Western Australia you can catch them at the upcoming Denmark Festival of Voice, and at the odd gig around Perth. For details and CDs, check their web site.

12 Comments

  1. Colin Beasley:

    Love your work, Stewart. Bloody Brilliant. Thanks so much for your great (and perceptive) comments.

    Spooky Col

  2. Stewart:

    Hey Colin,
    Always happy to help out. We can't let such momentous events go by without saying something for the benefit of posterity, can we?

    FYI, the video is also on YouTube.

  3. David Kelly:

    Sometime audience sometime roady. The spookes last two gigs have been great especially the Christchurch gig. They sounded good because you were in form, the venues were good and there was NO amplification. When ever there has been amplification the sound has been not so good and occasionally RS. Please avoid amplifiers!!

  4. mike o's:

    cheers stewart, or should that be Oi!

    much appreciated

    mike o's

  5. Stewart:

    Hi David,

    I'm sorry to say I missed the last couple of gigs, but I'm told Christchurch had an excellent acoustic, and an attentive audience. I think those are probably the two things you need to avoid using amps. The challenging venues tend to be the ones with large open spaces, outdoors, or when there is a lot of noise from people coming and going (eg. festivals and the like). Not only does this make it difficult for the audience to hear the performers, but it can be quite hard for the performers to hear each other, which can be a death sentence for choirs because it then becomes impossible to keep in tune.

    When Voicemale were offered the Fremantle Arts Center gig it was with some trepidation that we accepted, because we've had terrible difficulty there in the past: our last gig was outdoors, it was windy, and we had no foldback. So this time we came prepared with our own portable "acoustic shell" which the talented Terry built from some old blackboards. If you look behind the Spooks in the video, you can see the curved wall which is designed to try to contain some of the sound. Many of our singers found the foldback distracting, but we found that we could hear each other well enough with out it. Of course, the audience still got the amplified version, but in spaces like that its unfortunately unavoidable.

    But I agree that nothing beats that "unplugged" sound if you have the right conditions. If you're doing gigs by invitation you sometimes don't have much control over this. When you're running your own show its easier to get things right.

  6. coontailhat:

    We are looking for somewhere else to hang our hats, so we can have a second verse in Navigation.

  7. Stewart:

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for stopping by. I hope to put some more stuff here soon, perhaps after Denmark.
    Keep on dreaming (of Mastadons)

  8. Stewart:

    coontailhat: Great to hear. I look forward to it.

  9. Ash:

    Oarsome vork Stewart!! I must agree with the above hat hanging comments.Cheers Ash :)

  10. Stewart:

    Thanks Ash. Looks like we may have consensus on the hats...

  11. Kim Smith:

    I am looking for lyrics for "Don't Get Between a Man and His Tool" or "Magnificent". If the Spooks ever do a US tour, I would love to have them come to Dodge City (the real one)for a concert.

  12. Stewart:

    Hi Kim,

    I'm not aware of any Spooky lyrics on the web. The lyrics are on the relevant CD liners. "Don't Stand Between a Man and His Tool" is on "Tooled Up", and "Magnificent" is on "Stop Scratching It". Details on the CD releases are here: http://spookymen.com.au/spookycd.htm

    Apart from that, your best bet is probably to try Youtube, which has videos of both songs. Whatever else you think of them, they do enunciate rather well...

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