Death of the Red Masque


Death of the Red Masque

Release Date: 2001, Big Balloon Music.
Available format: Pay-What-You-Want Download.

Album Credits

LINE-UP: Brandon Lord Ross, Lynnette Shelley, Steven Blumberg, Nathan-Andrew Dewin, Kevin Kelly

Track Listing:
1. Tidal
2. Ended Ways
3. A Moon Falls

Death of the Red Masquewas recorded and produced by Why Me? Recording Studios and Joe Delucca; Fjordstone Studios and Paul Nordquist; and Shabby Roads Studios and Karl Colon. Special thanks to Tom Boyer at OATH Studios and Craig Markley at Lone Raven Studios for technical assistance. Having journeyed to three states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey) in the span of three weeks during the course of recording, the members of The Red Masque bid you to let go your senses and drain your cup of the heady elixir that is Death of the Red Masque.

The Red Masque

Photo by Deborah Lattomus. The Red Masque (2001): Steven Blumberg, Lynnette Shelley, Nathan-Andrew Dewin, Brandon Lord Ross, Kevin Kelly

Select Reviews

NOTE: This review was kindly translated for the band from Polish to English by Adam Baruch of www.jazzis.com.

The Red Masque is quite a new name which recently appeared on the US avant-prog scene. Their creative output, as they describe it themselves, is influenced by music from horror movies, RIO, zeuhl, goth, improvisation and art-rock. The group's debut was the release of "Tidal", which was warmly received by critics, issued on the "Progressive Ears" compillation, and which also opens this EP.

And it really starts like a sound track of a horror movie: mysterious bangs, whistles, solitary string notes, phrases seemingly out of context, and a high tone whining by the vocalist. All this slowly grows, creating a dark, scarry atmosphere, only to develop after a few minutes into a devilishly broken avant-prog rhythm. All this has in it a bit of King Crimson, some Univers Zero, but it's also abvious that the group has its own identity and strives to develop its own style, which by the way works pretty well for them. Large part of this success is due to ther vocalist whose voice brings to mind a cross over between Diamanda Galas and Anna Meek from Catapill, but is not as much extreme. The out of tune keyboards also create an additional effect to the crazed climat of the tune. 

Next comes the over 13 minutes long "A Moon Falls", which start in a strangely innocent, quiet and melodic, but as we can easily guess, this is misleading, since very soon it's apparent that this is only one of the many faces, which this tune has in store. Slowly the acoustic parts become intertwined with ferrocious guitar and a mass of twisted rhythms. This one is quite different from the previous tune mainly due to the much more extensive use of keyboards, which with their organ sounds add to the ghotic and dark climate.

The EP ends with the improvisation "Ways", which basically consists mostly of dysonant guitar noise, which in certain moments resembles the last project by the musicians of GBYE "Set Fire To Flames". On can hear that the whole piece has an improvisational character, in the backgroud there are irregular pecussive outbursts, appeaarances of surreal vocals, which towards the end generate an almost ambient climate.

Very, very promising release and group. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the EP has a relatively shorp playing time, but this material is a great fun to listen to!! The group has a unique identity and style and interesting ideas and already I can't wait for the promised next EP. A very special meritt goest to the dark, crazed, schisophrenic climate of the compositions, mostly eveident on the tune "Tidal" opening the album. Especially recommended to the fans of Univers Zero, Thinking Plague, or simply everybody who loves those "sick" sounds. Spine chill guaranteed!

Polish Art Rock Net

Nice little CDR introduction to a new American band. Three tracks of slighty dark prog rock ranging from Gong-ish space explorations to VDGG inspired intensity. Singer Lynnette Shelley has a sultry alto voice that sorta sounds like Grace Slick in her early Jefferson Airplane days crossed with a more classically trained voice. A welcome repose from all the Annie Haslam-like sopranos that make-up the rather sparse population of female prog vocalists. This is definitely a band to watch! The disc is 34 mins long and has nice artwork and labeling.

ZNR CDs

The Red Masque have an EP that is available from both MP3.com and Musea named Death of the Red Masque. Or, you can do what I did and download all three cuts from the MP3.com site and build your own version of the EP. It's worth the work, or if you don't have a CDR burner, it's well worth the pittance they're asking for the DAM CD.

This music is a mixture of avant-garde anarchy, metallic guitar (in a Crimsonesque sort of way) stylings, and a dash of space-rock improv. Imagine the early noisy guitar-oriented music of Daevid Allen (Camembert Electrique era Gong or Bananamoon), but without the glissandoz guitar; add some early Hawkwind space metal (e.g. Doremi Fasol Latido) to the mix. Finally, add Lynette Shelly's soprano vocals which can switch from breathy, wordless operatic loftiness to Janis Joplin growl at any moment. A dash of gothic feel (a particularly interesting pipe organ section) and you have the vaguest of ideas about what this band sounds like. Heavy, chaotic, dense and quite captivating. I'm sure they're a blast to see live ... too bad I missed their pre-NEARfest concert in 2001, but I got to Allentown too late to see them.

This EP is clearly only a hint of things to come, and they are working on an album as of this writing... This album will contain an extended version of "A Moon Falls" from their EP, as well as some live favorites and several improvised tracks. I'll be looking forward to it. In the meantime, click on over to MP3.com and check out the EP. I hope you like it as much as I did.

- Fred Trafton, GEPR

The Red Masque is a fledgling avant-progressive band from Philadelphia that, while bearing influences from Rock-In-Opposition, Zeuhl and King Crimson's more experimental moments, also introduces more surprising traits such as semi-gothic atmospheres and a biting metallic undercurrent. The Death of the Red Masque is a promising debut release from the group, serving as a statement of intent by means of their unique approach, as well as hinting at a well of brilliance smoldering just beneath the surface. The music is heavily angular, aggressive and dark, highlighted by the stark, haunting delivery of vocalist Lynette Shelley, and complemented by a churning, forceful musical backdrop; punctual, repetitive bass and drum rhythms along with walls of searing guitar that float across the mix.

Certainly, being the band's first release, there are some areas that keep this from being completely solid, but the important thing is that the group has a idiosyncratic, experimental approach that will undoubtedly bear fruit in the future. Firstly, the album is rather short, and while the two composed pieces are enjoyable, I would gladly have sacrificed the ten minute improv for the opportunity of hearing another full piece. In addition, compositionally speaking, The Red Masque lack the kind of dynamic, sophisticated approach of bands like Thinking Plague, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic or Henry Cow, fans of which will probably make up much of the band's potential audience. By that I mean that my impression is that the band comes from more of a "rock" angle as opposed to the base of 20th century classical, heavily composed experimentation and tonal and rhythmic oddity that makes those other bands so damn invigorating. Rather, The Red Masque's music seems to begin as rock songs, with "noisier" sensibilities overlaid upon the basic structure, such as grating guitar or Shelley's haunting voice, rather than evoking dissonance or experimentation by the laying of the notes in and of themselves. That said, the approach works from time to time, as closer "A Moon Falls" illustrates. Here, the band band builds to a series of melodic climaxes that essentially represent the emotional peaks of the release. Great stuff. For me, the aforementioned "Ended Ways" improvisational piece does not work as well, generally droning, abstract sounds that lack a sense of any kind of instrumental interplay. That could work in the context of a full length, but for a short release such as this I'd rather hear a proper composition.

Death of the Red Masque is not in the same league as many of the other phenomenal avant-progressive albums of the last few years, though for a debut EP release, it is promising. A little tightening up and a focus on arrangements while retaining the intense Mardi-Gras-Gone-To-Hell atmospheric and spatial talents of the band could result in a very solid full length album in the near future.

— Greg Northrup, The Giant Progweed

Hailing from Philadelphia, the Red Masque craft a dark form of avant garde progrock that explodes with sparkling appeal.

The first track, "Tidal", commences with a pleasant abstraction that sets a moody stage for the drama to come. When things go coherent and melodic, rich vocals croon amid a seething pool of searing guitar and hyperactive percussives and rumbling bass and sultry keyboards. There is a Fripp-mastery to the snarling guitar that grabs the attention and vibrates the soul with compelling riffs.

The second track, "Ended Ways", is mainly instrumental. It swarms upon the listener with dynamic impact. Grating but sinuous guitar ascends to break through mystery-shrouded clouds. Frantic yet sensual drumming cascades with impulsive command, establishing driving rhythms that plunge off into seemingly chaotic snake-pits. Amid these chasms of ominous darkness there surges a spacey air mixing with cosmic desperation, a sound struggles (and wins) to coalesce with fervent passion and triumphant victory over pandemonium. The final passage of this piece achieves a soaring calm that maintains a inspiring agitation as the sonics fade into a higher plane of wisdom and peace.

The final track is "A Moon Falls". It begins with delicate guitar and vocal airs that convey strong renaissance sensibilities. This fanciful mood builds into grandiose proportions with dense keyboards and electrified guitar and growling bass and momentous drumming. Lyrical vocals communicate intricate and prosaic emotions, leading to a powerful passage of epic percussion and keyboard grandeur. Throughout it all, the guitar swims like a friendly but dangerous shark. Church organ resounds to produce a breather for the listener, peppered with sultry guitar slidings. Then the song returns to an ascendant structure, unfurling masterful prog-rock tones and lyrical content for a riveting conclusion.

This is quite a astounding debut release that fuses Fairport Convention with King Crimson--and pulls it off with considerable style and acumen.

— Matt Howarth, Sonic Curiosity

The Red Masque are an avant-prog 5-piece(g/b/k/d/v) group from Philadelphia, and The Death of the Red Masque is their new 3-song EP. After my first listen, I was quite impressed with this group's direction. The music here tends to mix Krautrock-like experimentation, American avant-garde(John Cage, Henry Cowell, and Cecil Taylor), and King Crimson's(or if you would like, Bubu) dramatic instrumental interplay with Gong's spaced-out psychedelia. Each of the lengthy tracks on the EP offers a different musical exploration. The first track, for example, starts off with a John Cage-like build-up, that includes Gongs and other percussive instruments, but soon the band enters a lengthy avant-prog section featuring dissonant vocals, and unpredictable instrumental turns(sounding like a mellower Il Balleto Di Bronzo). The second track slowly builds intensity until it explodes into a colorful, Gong-like, space-rock jam. The third track, which comes closest to pure prog rock, reminded me of a mixture of Faust and Bubu. All of the musicians in this band are impressive, but there are two that really stand out. The first one is vocalist Lynnette Shelley. Her voice brought Thinking Plague's Deborah Perry and Rufus's Gudny Aspaas(from the album New Born Day) to mind. Lynnette's vocals are dissonant, soulful, theatrical, and generally unpredictable. Her lower register, and avoidance of 12-tone like melodies, also gives the music an eerie sound that is different from standard RIO and avant-garde classical. The other musician to stand out is guitarist Steven Blumberg. His style leans more towards the avant-garde side of the wall, as he has the tendency to use his guitar to create noises, and sound explorations, that sound like something out of Faust's The Faust Tapes or one of the early Amon Duul II records. Many sections also feature heavier, riff-oriented, guitar lines. Overall, this group really stands out. The Red Masque will appeal to fans of RIO, 70s krautrock, and complex progressive rock.

— Steve Hegede