The Black Heart Procession
Blood Bunny/Black Rabbit
Since their 1998 debut, the Black Heart Procession slowly grew from a curious Three Mile Pilot side project into a fully focused tour de force of gloom and doom. 2009’s Six bested the rest of the band’s body of work: Pall Jenkins and Tobias Nathaniel’s skills at conjuring the most from both instrumental explosions and dead space made it easily their most significant artistic statement. Though follow-up Blood Bunny/Black Rabbit could have been a commercial afterthought designed to maintain PR, the band instead expand their already wide palette and fearlessly test out wild new sounds and hint at a new direction.
Blood Bunny/Black Rabbit consists of five remixes of Six songs and three new songs. Enlisting guests to remix old tracks usually suggests a creative dry spell or a crass cash grab. In the Black Heart Procession’s instance, the move seems motivated by pure adventure. The remixers transmogrify the originals into astonishingly different animals. The version sure to garner the most attention is dub legend Lee “Scratch” Perry’s psychotic rendering of “Freeze.” You’d expect a spliff-scented and altered dub space out. Instead, Perry mutilates the original, lending a bent madness to what is easily the strangest song to bear the Black Heart Procession label. Perry’s echoed, random vocals reverberate over synth shards and a cut-up beat like the psychotic musical interpretation of Naked Lunch. Like gazing in wonderment at a smoking, blood-spattered car wreck, you can’t resist replaying repeatedly, unsure whether the song is an abomination or a revelation.
While Eluvium’s version of “Drugs” goes on for nearly 10 minutes, he imbues it with a symphonic majesty that lends itself to its length. Flowing with ease into Jamuel Saxon’s trip-hop version displays more fertile fields with which the band could reap new sounds. It’s a near flawless melding of ambient otherworldliness with a profane hip-hop beat. All of it portends a riveting new chapter for the band.
As for the three original songs, they’re among the most daring in the Black Heart Procession’s already complacency-averse catalog. “Devotion” captures some of Depeche Mode’s gloom infatuation and injects it with grit and muscle. Perhaps the recent Three Mile Pilot album siphoned off the band's more standard, pop inclinations. But Blood Bunny/Black Rabbit hints at a welcome expedition into uncharted waters that the band would be wise to continue. All it will take for the Black Heart Procession to capitalize on the artistic profits earned here is vision. If they can harness this impressive scope, they will have an awe-inspiring next album on their hands.
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