Opheliac (Double Disc)
I found Emilie through Last.FM and the first album I bought was her classical/electronic violin album 'Laced-Unlaced.' After listening to her original compositions, and her own renditions of classics such as 'Largo' it was obvious she was a very well accomplished classical musician. So what did I expect of 'Opheliac'? Not this, that's for sure!
It turns out that this album is pretty dark, and has elements of... well, I don't know what of! All I know that this album is one hell of a ride. Gone are her violin instrumentals, in with her vocals which range from beautiful, to bizarre, to down right terrible. Terrible in a good way. It appears that she doesn't care much if she sounds good or not, rather, she just wants to get her point across. I should try to describe the sound to you. There is classical violin, acoustic violin, and electric violin, mixed in with heavy beats and electronic mixing. Any authentic sound is probably some form of a string instrument. She hasn't the best singing voice in the world, but it's hardly the point here, she can still sing okay, and she mostly sings straight, but she has some unique vocal techniques and interpretations too. Worth checking out. It's a dark but catchy album. I'm not gothic, or listen to gothic music (the odd WT or Nightwish, but nothing serious) and I'd normally run a mile from anything like this, but it works.
This album seems loosely based around the Victorian era and literature. Considering the connotations of the Victorian Era you get gothic like literature, murder of prostitutes, repressed women, darkness, industrialisation, etc. It's all here. How she conveys all in a sound I will never know, but as a Victorian Literature student, I think she pulls it all off amazingly well.
There are two discs. The first disc is consistently dark. It's about madness, suicide, murder, rape, anger, alienation, death, stalking and the like. The one exception to this is the light-hearted 'Swallow' where you'll be forgiven if you initially mistake it as an early 90's Madonna record. It's very oddly placed on this album, but you won't regret it being on here. 'The Art of Suicide' is another one. It's not that happy, but the music is a contrast to the lyrical content. I understand people may criticise her lyrics, and since they are about such extreme things, it's a little wonder, but I DO wonder if those people understand the point of what she was trying to do, or how much they know about the Victorian period. There wasn't a lot of happiness for the Victorians, especially when translated into history. I think the lyrics are fantastic. Some people may recognise the story (and title) of 'Shalott' which is a direct rip off of Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem 'The Lady of Shalott'. Considering it's my favourite poem of all time, I was wonderfully surprised to hear it, and her lyrical adaptation is altered very well to fit in nicely with the rest of the album.
The highlights of the first disc are definitely 'Opheliac' (Ophelia was a character in Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' and I think it basically means madness in this songs context), 'Swallow', 'Liar', 'I Want My Innocence Back', 'Misery Loves Company' and 'Let The Record Show'. For 'Opheliac', you will hear a song quite unlike you have ever heard before. It's repulsive yet appealing at the same time. She growls in the chorus, and I usually hate growls but it really works for that song. 'I Want My Innocence Back' is nothing short of terrifying, do not listen to alone in the dark. 'Let The Record Show' is sung from a point of view of a murdered prostitute. Although the content is dark, it's mega catchy. Her vocals on the verse is genius. The chorus is proper jumping if you have it up loud. Again, you wouldn't have heard anything like it.
Now for the second disc. There's not a lot here (three songs, two violin, three spoken poems). Put aside 'Largo' and the three poems, which are all okay, I suppose, but not a great listening experience, you have the genius of 'Dominant', '306', 'Thank God I'm Pretty' and the hilarious 'Marry Me'. 'Dominant' is easily the best track on this disc. It's an instrumental with the violin and electronic mixing, it sounds like it should be part of a dramatic film score. '306' carries on from where 'Dominant' left off, it's not as good though'. The next two songs are comical. 'Thank God I'm Pretty' is Emilie's sarcastic gratitude for being pretty, it's not laugh out loud, but will make you smirk. 'Marry Me' is absolutely brilliant. Not only does she sing really well in it, it's also hilarious, and is based on Victorian upper class marriage. I suggest you find the lyrics and read along with the song, as there are very funny moments it. It's light hearted as well and her vocals verge on operatic during the chorus.
The last thing I should mention about Emilie is that she does albums practically by herself. She doesn't have a team of songwriters, musicians, mixers and a production team she does it all herself. She writes, performs and produces everything. She is immensely talented, I hope she doesn't stay in the shadow of obscurity for too much longer even though I understand why she does. I doubt an album like this could ever be widely accepted by a mass audience.
If you want to hear something different, you must buy this album, and do so with an open mind.
When you come across Emilie Autumn fans, you may well find that many are divided. Many love THIS Emilie, the Emilie that they call the "Enchant Era" whilst others enjoy the "Victorindustrual" era. Bear in mind though, that there are not many people that enjoy the latter era and dislike 'Enchant'; it's a completely different type of music, but Emilie back then was still unique and this album provides us with music which is radically different to what she does now, but it's also different compared to anything other artist due to the albums eclectic material.
This album is not pigeonholed for an audience; when the album opens up with 'Prologue: Across The Sky' you will believe that you have stumbled into a fairy wonderland which sounds like a bizarre collaboration between Enigma and Enya but as the album continues you were treated to mild blues/jazz like Second Hand Faith, rocky-pop numbers like 'Chambermaid', pop/techno/violin songs like the catchy 'Juliet' and pretty haunting ballads like 'Epilogue: What If'. I'd say that if you don't like the jazzy sound, you may not like the majority of the album, but there are enough songs on it without the jazz to pull this through for you. The standout songs are 'Across The Sky', 'Chambermaid', 'Rapunzel' and 'What If'.
As to Emilie's performance - it is very different to her later CDs. None of this is rock or industrial really, she sings all the songs straight with her real voice (no growls). As to her violin playing it is highly played down on this album, but is obviously present in songs such as 'What If', 'Juliet' and 'Remember'. A lot of the album is electronic but a piano and violin can be heard pretty much throughout, even if not on the forefront. Unlike other albums, Emilie didn't do this album by herself so it's not purely her production wizardry and strong instrumental playing.
Enchant has reached cult and classic status because there is simply a song on here for everyone but is hard to obtain. It has been more or less impossible to get until August this year when it was released again in a special boxset for a limited amount only (3000 copies). This is the same product, and if you don't snap it up now you won't get the opportunity again for a very long time, possibly never. As it is, the boxset (if you can call it that) is quite pricey and you may not regard it being worth your money, as you can buy the album legally on download through her website for a quarter of the price. The packaging comes as a normal CD sized book with a thin card board sleeve that covers it. Inside you have several pages but there is not much artwork to be seen, and there are zero photos. There is only lyrics written by Emilie's own hand, but it is barely eligible, so if you want the lyrics you will still have to log on the net and find them that way, despite having them in your hand. The CD itself does not have any bonus songs or material. It is exactly as it was in its original release.
A Bit O' This & That
This album is exactly what it says it is. Not a complete album in the ordinary sense, but a collection of b-sides, remixes, live recordings, and random things she recorded on a whim on a kitchen floor. Many of the songs are low quality due to the way they were recorded (not in a recording studio, put it that way). There are no songs here in the 'Opheliac' style.
Many songs sound like cut songs from 'Enchant' and there are two remixes from the 'Enchant' album. She has done a universally terrible remix of Chambermaid (something she confirms in the notes herself) which sounds like a complete mess, and it opens the album. The second song and the second remix is a rather sweeter version than the original 'What If' with a celtic edge and it appears to be a different vocal performance. 'Hollow Like My Soul' and 'I Don't Care Much' are jazzy reject songs from Enchant. 'I Know It's Over', 'All My Loving' (a Beatles cover) and 'With Every Passing Day' all have very poor recording quality.
Elsewhere we have the comical rendition of 'The Star Sprangled Banner' which she attempts to sing in her unique way. It's funny, but also a bit cringe worthy. In the notes she said she recorded it to show people that it was a bad idea to ask her to sing the anthem live. There are two live violin recordings of 'Sonata in D Minor' and 'Ancient Grounds'. There is a harpsichord instrumental of the classic 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life'. The song which would probably make most people want to buy this album is the single she released in 2001 which is randomly squeezed in called 'By The Sword' which is a poppy, rocky kind of song with a punch. For me, however, there are only two songs on here that are worth listening to, and that's the ballad 'Find Me A Man' and the Shakespeare inspired 'O Mistress Mine' which is a song that was originally going to be on a Shakespeare album she was working on, but scraped. Lastly, there is the song 'Miss Lucy Had Some Leeches' which is three songs, the first being an acapella of a children's playground game (like 'Oranges and Lemons' for example), a second song comes on which is short and sweet, and the third song has no music, just some very eerie/fightening noises. Her vocals are tampered with and layered.
The packaging is exactly the same as the Enchant packaging that has been released along with this. It comes as a normal CD sized book with a thin card board sleeve that covers it. Inside you have several pages without photos and artwork, just Emilie penning notes on each song as to why she recorded it and what she thinks of it, which is a cute addition to it all.
As one can expect with such albums, it doesn't carry much substance but there is the odd song that is worth listening to. Over all, I think this is a CD that only die-hard fans should buy. Casual buyers will not find much to appreciate here, and even avid fans may find it difficult to appreciate too.
Laced/Unlaced (Double Disc)
I have a deluxe edition where the two CDs come in a hardcover book, and there is plenty of artwork and sheet music for the piece 'Unlaced'. Looking at this one, however, this seems to be a simple jewel case. There are only 2000 copies of the version I describe, so whether you want that one, or you want to take a chance on this one (I have no idea what the booklet looks like in this case) then go ahead and buy this version.
If you know Emilie through Opheliac, or the Liar/The Dead Is The New Alive EP, I should tell you now, that this album is not like that. This album is purely violin and production wizardry you would come to expect from Emilie Autumn. That is not to say that this album is completely different, as the second disc sounds like a complicated instrumental version of the Opheliac album. If you enjoyed Emilie's 'Dominant' from Opheliac and 'Unlaced' from the EP, there is no reason why you won't like this.
About the album though. Generous as always, there are twenty-two tracks on this album. They come in two discs. The first disc is simply a re-release of the extremely rare first album of hers 'On A Day...' only, it has five unnamed live bonus tracks. This first disc is purely classical, based around her violin, most of which are compositions by well known composers such as Bach. Three of the tracks are her own compositions which sound very much like they go hand in hand with the other timeless classics on the album. These tracks were recorded when she was merely seventeen years old and showcases what a young talent she was. Personally, I prefer this first disc to the second, she throws her own arrangement and interpretation on to the pieces. Whilst she plays the baroque violin with charm and style, she is backed up with her distinctive other sounds of the lute, harpsichord and the baroque cello - just to make sure you get the full Emilie Autumn experience. She is distinctive, even with pieces that have been played by so many others.
The first disc was recorded in 1997. So ten years on, what does the new disc, recorded in 2007 have to offer that is different from her first? Out with the old, in with the new. Emilie abandons the baroque violin in exchange for the electric violin. This time round, everything you hear on this disc is down to Emilie, she plays all of the instruments (including that distinctive harpsichord she is so well known for) and produced the whole thing on her own. I may be bold in saying, this is a disc that you have heard nothing like before. Genius in composition (she wrote all the tracks on this disc) and flawless in their execution, Emilie delivers a sound to excite the mind. It opens with 'Unlaced' which was a sampler for this album on her last EP which is dark, brooding and atmospheric. The albums continues in the same vain, there are no weepy violin solos here. All packed with energy, some dark, and some just plain bouncy such as 'A Cure?' 'Face The Wall' is probably the most fascinating piece on here as it is solo electric violin and is the demonstration of Emilie's refreshing technique with the violin.
Both discs take some listening in order to appreciate the talent on display here. Some tracks may immediately jump out, whilst some are subtle. There is not one bad track on here. I'd highly recommend it to 'Opheliac' fans even if the fact there are no vocals puts you off - the style of the second disc is very much the same. If you love the violin, then there should be nothing stopping you here, as this is a new fascinating way for it to be heard. There is nobody quite like Emilie Autumn. I own a lot of violinist albums and no one comes anywhere near Emilie - not even Vanessa-Mae.
Liar/Dead Is The New Alive (Double Feature EP)
This was the last CD I purchased from Emilie Autumn as the two songs were not the most special ones from the album 'Opheliac'. Due to the extra tracks, though, I gave it a go, expecting the same quality that came with the second disc of 'Opheliac'. This is probably her weakest release. Remixes are never great at the best of times. Whilst some of the remixes create a different atmosphere, I sincerely doubt anyone preferring them to the originals.
There are four original tracks not found on other albums - they are not of the quality you found on the second disc of 'Opheliac'. 'Mad Girl' is quite nice, and probably the best track on the album, it has a similar tempo to 'Thank God I'm Pretty' and the same kind of style, though 'Mad Girl' is less tongue in cheek. 'Best Safety Lies In Fear' is like a part two of '306'. It's mostly a jumping record of somebody saying 'If he says he loves you' and 'Best safety lies in fear' with a brooding background. 'In The Lake' and 'Let It Die' are live recordings and the production isn't great. They are of low quality in general, the first is repetitive to the point of irritation about a girl that has been buried behind someone's else in a lake. Typical Emilie topic, but not typical production wizardry, it being down to just her voice and one instrument (either acoustic guitar or Mandolin). 'Let It Die' sounds a lot like the other live performance.
Also on this disc is a preview to Emilie's latest album (which is out now) - an electric violin instrumental called 'Unlaced' which used to be a primary reason to get this EP, but now that the other album is being released this EP may not be worth it. Do you remember 'Thank God I'm Pretty' from disc two of 'Opheliac'? She has put a cover version of it on here from an artist called 'Spiritual Front'. If that means something to you, great, if not, it sounds like the song is being sung by Leonard Cohen. The version is quite interesting, but lacks the humour and irony that Emilie provided. Plus, it's a bit strange for a man to sing such a song clearly written from a woman's perspective (do men smack other men's arses?).
Bearing in mind, this EP is full of forgettable remixes and only four tracks you will find nowhere else, it is questionable if you should invest your money in this (which are quite weak). There is not much to take from this album but to complete a fans collection. I think this EP is more for the die-hard fans. Try to hear some previews before committing to this.
As active as ever, Emilie releases yet more new material for her die-hard fans to rip their teeth into which is continuing down the 'Opheliac' path regarding style and genre.
Comparisons with her previous EP are inevitible, and this EP is the clear winner, for there are no 'repeats' (unless you put 'Organ Grinder' in that category, but this could only previously be found on the Saw III soundtrack) and this EP flows and makes more sense as a whole. Far more atmospheric than the Liar/Dead Is The New Alive EP. Generally speaking, this EP follows the exact format as its predecessor, giving us a few original tracks, some remixes from Opheliac and some random extras.
The main focus is the title track, which makes this whole EP worth buying, regardless if you like the other tracks or not. Emilie has consistently tried to make her sound essentially Victorian Gothic, or, in other words, to bring us to her Victorian Asylum; this song succeeds with honours. The lyrics work on two levels: the literal and metaphorical. Metaphorically it tackles insomnia, but literally it takes us back to the Victorian period and the situation that women endured in lunatic asylums. With its regular chimes, brooding harpsichord and thoughtful vocals, this quirky, gothic half-ballad treats us to a haunting listening experience.
'My Fairweather Friend' is somewhat of an echo of 'In The Lake' from the L/DITNA EP. It's a bit of a filler that would have suited her 'A Bit o' This & That' album. The upshot of this EP is the fewer remixes, but even so, these remixes are rather good, particularly the Filthy Victorian Mix of 'Swallow' (one of the firm favourite songs from 'Opheliac' of many fans). The 'Swallow' remixes rely heavily on the extroverted bass lines which gives them a refreshing boost. The remix of 'Gothic Lolita' is genuinely freaky. As the title of the remix suggests, less emphasis on music is displayed and is replaced with frightening sound effects with a little and faint violin playing throughout.
Many fans will be pleased to find 'Organ Grinder' on here, previously available, but hard to get hold of, nonetheless. For those unfamiliar with it, it is a fast paced electric violin piece in the same vein as the 'Unlaced' album.
The words from 'Asylum' is purely Emilie reading out excerpts from her upcoming book - a shameless plug (why not, on your own CD?) which people are not likely to appreciate. They are read out with the same production as her poetry from the 'Opheliac' album. Her acting voice can be a bit grating, and the sound effects and her leaning away from the mic can make actual listening very distracting.
There is a hidden track as track nine (it starts off sounding like it continues from the book reading, the song actually starts 40 seconds in). A cover of Alice Cooper's 'Is It My Body'. Performed with Harpsicord and electrical sounds and too quiet vocals, it can be quite entertaining, but there is a good reason that it is merely hidden and not advertised.
Overall, I would say this EP is well worth buying. The title track is excellent, and the remixes memorable. The book reading and the second track let this disc down a bit but it is a fine addition to an Emilie Autumn collection.