The last thing I remember was crashing through the door, head spinning, mind awash with a myriad of visions that made no sense. Now here I stand on a street I don’t recognise looking at a dark doorway. The sign above says “Purgatory”.
So, nothing to lose I walk in. Fearless.
A peroxide blonde dressed in black leather looks me in the eye and I recoil. She is surrounded by hooded monks. WYou are not ready.” Her lips don’t move but I hear her voice crystal clear. She hands me a large envelope and a map. The monks begin chanting a strange wordless Eastern melody accompanied by a muted trumpet.
There is a hand on my shoulder, I turn and look into my own eyes.
I pass out.
Awake now, I feel slightly nauseous. By my side a map of the Middle East and the large envelope with “IF YOU DARE” carefully hand written in large letters. Inside a sheet of A4 simply says Deserts – THE PURGATORY PLAYERS.
You have heard it said many times “It’s been a long strange trip”, well, in my experience long strange trips are the most satisfying and if you open your envelope and sample Deserts you will take a massive cerebral journey that is ultimately very fulfilling.
There are so many threads woven together in this recording that reveal a work that has been crafted with care and detail and above all BRAVERY. Get your passport.
A sprightly ‘How We Grew Up’ is the opener followed by ‘Quai Fes Pecheurs’ and immediately we are invited into another world inhabited by a whole host of characters and situations.
There is a cloistered gothic feel running through this work and the whole record appears to orbit around an incredible cycle of songs beginning at track 3 with ‘Ibrahim Yet Eternity’. ‘Ibrahim’ is a middle eastern tale delivered in sombre tones before a dervish like ending. ‘Fear Him Through the Metals’ is a dirge like opus with a soaring chorus. The introverted feel is left behind by the rather jolly Dexy’s like ‘Minare’. There’s a little Smiths moment in there for you too. Perfectly placed in the track listing, you will dance before a brooding ‘The Mountain, Relit’.
The cycle seems to close with a reprise of ‘Ibrahim’, full of religious dogma and hope yet tinged with menace. A violin tugs at the edges of your soul. I love the the sampled owl.
‘White Mirror’ though references scimitars and barn owls, love and the rosary and, just to surprise us, has a Mariachi tinge with a strange Mediterranean chorus you might find yourself humming as you wash the dishes. Quite an epic.
‘Eulogy For All Saints’ finds us hunkered down in the pews in a mountain monastery reflecting on all that has gone before, possibly one of the most interesting things I have heard this year. ‘The Waltz and the Pivot’ is a masterful ending, a Gothic-tone poem in monotone over muted samples and a strong bass line before the brass lifts the mood as the song closes with an unexpected reflective moment.
Deserts is a mountain road. It twists and turns, has unexpected junctions an hairpin bends. There are deep valleys and high summits and the odd roadside cafe. Most satisfyingly, it has a destination.
Play the album straight through if you can.
I commend this record to you as yet another example of the huge reservoir of artistic talent that frequents Sheffield yet seems to go unrecognised.
Words: Keefy How