Leading off with the majestic "Alchemy", this Canadian trio's tone is damaged. Strung out by the roadside holding a sign that they hope leads to a better place, this band have a transient feel to their work. Burnt out motorway hotel rooms standing idle, paper thin walls soaked with the memories of their anguished tenants. Such is the world of Johnny Hollow. Equal parts Gorey and Poe, the playful streak this band enthrall the audience with is very much one of the crotchety uncle who terrifies the children at family gatherings with tales of finding little ones at the bottom of a well. Pale alabaster skin which crumbles when touched or "passion as relentless as the underworld below" like the lyrics to the song "Die4Love" enthuse. "The Hollow World" puts us out on the dancefloor expertly raising the hairs on our neck with a cello swooping in and out "blackbirds sing their harmonies; all you can eat in a world of me; tell me isn't that all you need". One can hear the croaking voice of that wicked witch proferring her apple screeching like a maimed owl in the dark woods of youthful despair.
We then shift to an almost Arabic arrangement in "Worse Things" with some boutique baroque piano and once more that nagging cello comes stalking back. Little pig little pig let me in, it seems to be saying. The whimsical, fantastical nature of this song is punctuated by dazzling ivories being tickled under the expert hands of our wandering minstrels. "Once when I was alone I could not find the telephone, so I burned your pretty house to the ground... to the ground; I'll stay the same till you change your mind". My favourite one on "Dirty Hands" is the epic "Nova Heart" with solid production and the pleading words which resign themselves to a fate of isolation, a shuttered existence which gravely gives up what time it has left displaying such wit as "gentlemen of the world, I read your books and look at your art; now sleep, come apart". Delicious usage of low-key background loops build and build with an inescapable tension at their core.
If film noir ever makes a return to the fore, these are the people to use for the soundtrack. There's even a tune with a music box leading it in... on the waterfront, after dark, the curtain comes up. In the amphitheater of renown, you will find them.