Compulsion | PO Box 19577 | Kilbarchan |Johnstone | PA10 2WX | Scotland | UK



Black Sun Productions and Val Denham - Somewhere Between Desire and Despair

After a couple of collaborations on tracks, Black Sun Productions finally get together with Val Denham for a full length release. Val Denham might be best known for her paintings that have appeared on releases by Marc and the Mambas, Psychic TV... but over the past few years she has been releasing short-run CD-Rs of her lo-fi sounds. Homosexual overtones inform much of Black Sun Productions material but with Val Denham, a transgendered figure, the focus moves on to a new form of sexuality.

Somewhere Between Desire and Despair opens with the haunting atmospheric drone of 'A Tale of Two Cities' with Denham reciting lines from Charles Dickens. From then on much of the first half of Somewhere Between Desire and Despair flirts with various forms of electronic music. It's clear from 'Cobalt Blue' that Massimo and Pierce haven't forgotten their past association with Coil, as it picks up on the rhythmic shuddering Coil-like electronics with Denham's voice pitched deep and treated, alongside passages of sped-up processed vocals. Val Denham is something of a character and, at times, she sounds like a Northern housewife reared on a diet of glam records. 'Stars', a Denham collaboration with Testing Vault, goes all downbeat with dark electronics, featuring Denham's idiosyncratic take on a pop vocal. Denhams' voice is almost helium-fuelled on the disco-chug of 'We Are The Hydrogen'. 'Eat Us Mother!' foregoes the electronics for a surprisingly sparkly run through post-punk dynamics. Denham picks up on a rock persona teasing the listener with her shrieky and screechy vocal careering over booming bass and discordant guitar scrapes from her longtime collaborator Oli Novadniek.

Things slow down in the next half with a collection of evocative tracks, much in the vein of Black Sun Productions fantastic OperettAmoralle. The disorientating queasy electronics of 'Absinthe' has Denham relating a tale of alcohol abuse, evoking the Green fairy alongside some effective harmonium and harmonica drone. Many of the tracks here use mournful orchestration taken from a track called 'Morphium' - though the source isn't given. 'Andromeda' taps into the mind of the transgendered artist. It's almost poetic as Denham delivers a spoken vocal in her homely Northern tones. Much more poignant is 'Flowers In The Trenches' which tells of transgendered and transexual soldiers who fought in WWI. Amidst sombre strings and military snare drum rolls Denham speaks of those unnamed and forgotten soldiers who were, in fact, "women in their heads" fighting in another "man-made catastrophe" and "suffered for nothing". Enlightening stuff.

Val Denham really shines on the campy theatrics of 'I Try To Kill The Man' over the Weimar Berlin cabaret sounds of 'Das Lila Lied', an early 20th century homosexual anthem, here performed by the Ophelia Orchestra. Similarly 'Emerald Green' uses the score of Marlene Dietrich's 'Such Trying Times'. Denham is finely positioned to evoke the decadence, sexual transgression and dark wit with her sarcasm and style. Black Sun Productions have, of course, produced their own musical tribute on the works of Bertolt Brecht to tremendous effect and Denham's contributions don't disappoint.

Somewhere Between Desire and Despair is much more fun-filled than previous Black Sun Productions. It strikes a balance between electronic music and cabaret music, and a balance between poignancy and absurdity. It's not the most coherent release, partly due to the varied list of collaborators, but Val Denham manages to carry it all off with a verve and panache, informed by her strength of character, her honesty and humour. Somewhere Between Desire and Despair comes in a 6-panel digipak with wonderful representations of Val Denham's artwork. For more information go to www.touretterecords.com or www.myspace.com/touretterecords