Saturday, 14 August 2010

Various Artists - Plague Songs (2006)

1. Klashnekoff - Blood (the Plague Of Blood)
2. King Cresote - Relate the Tale (the Plague Of Frogs)
3. Stephin Merrit - The Meaning Of Lice (the Plague Of Lice)
4. Brian Eno & Robert Wyatt - Flies (the Plague Of Flies)
5. Laurie Anderson - The Fifth Plague (the Death Of Livestock)
6. Cody Chesnutt - Boils (the Plague Of Boils)
7. The Tiger Lillies - Hailstones (the Plague Of Hail)
8. Imogen Heap - Glittering Cloud (the Plague Of Locusts)
9. Scott Walker - Darkness (the Plague Of Darkness)
10. Rufus Wainwright - Katonah (the Death Of the Firstborn)

Do you ever wake up some mornings thinking 'boy, I've had a really rotten week. If only I could listen to a concept album about the Biblical plagues! I wonder where one might be able to find such a shining bundle of joy online...'

Well, wonder no more, as it gives me something resembling great pleasure to give you the 4AD label's Plague Songs compilation! With each song initially commissioned by the arts organisation Artangel for the Margate Exodus on September 30th 2006 - an installation in Margate (Kent) that re-told the Book Of Exodus via the media of painting, sculpting, film and, apparently, music. This here is the musical portion of the installation, telling as it does of the ten plagues of Egypt in the original Biblical order. Some time after the installation, evidently 4AD thought it'd be a good idea to compile each of the ten songs commissioned for the installation and release them.

And a good idea it indeed was. I'm no Bible nut (true, I was baptised a Roman Catholic, but that was just so my parents could get me into a Catholic state school), but this album is still immensely cool, partly because it avoids the pitfalls of 99% of religiously-inclined music by being too preachy and irritating. In fact, considering the plagues of Egypt were doing the rounds long before Jesus was said to be born, none of these songs preach at all. In fact, the only mention of God I've heard in this is in Hailstones by the Tiger Lillies, saying simply that 'God is dead'.

Those three words sum up the mood of this compilation wonderfully. It's unrelentingly dark, basically. Even the 80s synth-pop echoing Meaning Of Lice has a very forbidding feel to it. So, it's all very nice and gloomy then, but a word summing up the mood doesn't account for the variety of genres represented here, from the freakish nightmare of Darkness to the ambient Flies, the dark hip-hop of Blood, the neo-soul of Hailstones and so on. I'm gonna sum it up in the tags by calling it art rock and avante-garde though.

I'd be lying if I called this easy on the ear, but it's one of those albums you just need to kinda dive into and lose yourself in. Click the link below, save it for a sober night in on your own and let it do what it does best...


  1. this is by far one of the most interesting compilations i have ever heard....not sure if i like it...but will listen to it in it's entirety again

  2. this album contains one of the most difficult songs by Walker to find on Internet, please upload again, please