Chronique | Black Nail Cabaret - Chrysanthemum

Pierre Sopor 29 février 2024

Just because Black Nail Cabaret keeps up a steady pace doesn't mean the Hungarians don't allow themselves a few sideways steps. The previous album from Emese Árvai-Illés (vocals) and Krisztián Árvai (keyboards, programming), Woodland Memoirs, reinvented their music in a partly improvised acoustic format. They return to electronic music with Chrysanthemum, four years after Gods Verging on Sanity.

Chrysanthemums, of course, immediately lend a funereal and poetic hue to this cover inspired by deathbed portraits. Black Nail Cabaret is as much about the big swings as the nuances, combining experimentation and reassuringly familiar structures, with Emese Árvai-Illés' voice acting as the glue. The first track, My Home is Empty, is an ideal introduction: the electronics are haunted by a few spectral dissonances that disturb the contemplative layers, while the vocals are warm and soothing in their melancholy.

It's in this kind of exercise that we love Black Nail Cabaret so much, in their talent for surprises and invoking the strange, the threatening and the deviant, but always with a sense of seduction, as many intelligent provocations (the sudden heaviness at the end of Totems and Taboo, the eerie Neurons, the hypnotic hallucinatory atmospheric nightmares of 1mg...). Whether the pace picks up or we plunge into the most pallid introspection, the duo never take the easy way out, mixing surgical coldness with the vivid emotions of the vocals. At its most accessible, Chrysanthemum also reaches heights of elegance, like Darkness is a Friend, where post-punk influences lend an irresistible gothic charm, backed by an otherworldly theremin and heady vocals. Irresistible. The duo are no strangers to anthems: Autogenic and Roadtrip, with their contagious nostalgia, are other examples where aesthetic sophistication and immediate pleasure make a lovely couple.

The band explain that the fear of death defines and obsesses us, when we could be filled with so much more. Both rebellious and accepting of this state, Black Nail Cabaret may give Chrysanthemum a softer sound than the band's previous electronic effort but there's a more mournful atmosphere, an omnipresent aftertaste of mourning that colours the whole with bittersweet nuances as elegant as they are comforting... Comfortably ensconced in your coffin, you'll want to bask in the memories of your lifetime conjured up by this funereal celebration of life: a few tears won't hurt your parched skin.