15 Feb 2009

Ink Dot Boy : The Beautiful Murder [Album Review]

Theatric and majestic magnificence. Not routinely a phrase I would use to describe an album, however Ink Dot Boy's music is just that: a dramatic conceptual presentation for absorption on every perceptive channel.

This discovery began when I was sent a MySpace message by a fan of a band called Ink Dot Boy: an unsigned band from Boise, Idaho in the US. She pleaded for me to listen to the band's music, a band which she claimed had touched her soul. Well, how could I resist? I contacted the band, which sent me a link to its album for review. Upon first listening I was more than a little dazzled, so I listened to the album over two weeks on my iPod to ensure I wasn't simply buying into the hype. You see, the online presence Ink Dot Boy has created for itself -- as an unsigned band -- sets particularly high expectations.

I visited Ink Dot Boy's website, and clicked on 'Press Kit', where I was met with this rather confronting message: "Are you a Booking Agent, A&R Person, Publisher, Label, or any other type of Blood Sucking Bastard? Enter here!". This remotely filled me with a sense of ennui; most of the people I know who work in music promotions are in it to help musicians and are often the ones who end up being used...by the musicians themselves. Granted, 'blood sucking bastards' exist, but I'm not one of them; if I was, I'd be a millionaire from this music journalism gig ;)

The band statement reads thus:

"We, the chosen ones, had become the distractive festivity for the underground sieges and writhing souls; wretched, constant, glowing...keeping the crowded halls of ancient longing satisfied. A side show of freaks and outcasts, condemned and tattered; resilient in shallow, artic waters that hold trapped spirits and perfectly horrid memories." - Ink Dot Boy

"That's a bit pretentious," was my first thought. It's difficult to take these utopian statements seriously when bands appear to have an inflated sense of self importance. Then I began to wonder if it was a bit tongue in cheek -- I hope it is -- and started to see the beauty in creating an ideal for your music as part of a grand scheme. Ink Dot Boy has the most professional website I believe I've ever seen; its music videos -- or 'dramatic visuals that accompany the music', as they are more suitably named -- are striking; its written statements are grandiose and obtuse, setting expectations for something more than the standard indie band. And thankfully, the music surpasses these giddying heights, meeting the hype head on. A risky game that has paid off.

Ink Dot Boy's debut album, The Beautiful Murder, creeps into your bedroom window in the early morning to steal your dreams. The album, rather than a collection of disjointed songs, is a thematic window into another realm; something I've missed hearing in many recent releases. Songs range from the ethereally atmospheric The Dream to the grinding, dramatic peaks of Circle. One particularly appealing aspect of the album is my difficulty in comparing it to the music of other bands. While influences can be detected, they are subtle and the band owns its sound.

The screams in Circle and the subsequent lulling vocals, combined with distorted beats, creates in my mind visuals of old vampire films where victims in white nightgowns would utter silent pleas for redemption in their padded prisons at night, when the succubus would steal a little of their souls. Their wild hair, tortured, moonstruck eyes...that's what this music reminds me of: a score written for the unravelling of someone's mind.

Once in Romania maintains a mesmerising trance through repetition of a bass line that continues throughout the song from beginning to end. The contrast between the chorus' demented guitars and melodic vocals is striking, as is the addition of a harpsichord scale. The synth sounds used throughout the album remind me of something you'd hear in the Notre Dame cathedral, which lends a rich undertone to the songs. A Nightmare, particularly, holds this emotive and antiquated air.

And here's to you, may you rest in pieces blends into Fluorescent Needles seamlessly, the latter a song that has the potential to be a real commercial success for the band, a crossover song with wide range appeal. The Beautiful Murder Part 2 is a dynamic track reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails, a compliment because the sense of influence is slight and not overwhelming.

Lyrically, the band shows a maturity and eloquence infrequently heard in modern music. The songs contain an old world romanticism and drama, with more than a hint of darkness that speaks to me. I get the impression Ink Dot Boy knows of Rimbaud, of haunted artists and writers screaming creatively to express their grief and frustration.

The Beautiful Murder is a gift awaiting the listener, 16 tracks unlike anything you've heard before. It is an album I will be listening to years from now, such has it left a deep impression upon me. Much more significant than a mere dot on the musical universe, to be certain.

Listen to Ink Dot Boy on MySpace.

Sounds like: Filter, Deftones, Smashing Pumpkins, Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Babylon Zoo, Korn

Footnote:
Ink Dot Boy is currently recruiting for a touring guitarist. If you're interested, find out more information here.

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