A Cage Went in Search of a Bird

A Cage Went in Search of a Bird

Music Inspired by Franz Kafka

Somnimage

To read Franz Kafka is to experience the depths of alienation, confusion, and despair, so it’s small wonder so many darkwave artists admire his work. On the excellent A Cage Went in Search of a Bird, seventeen individuals or groups pay tribute to Kafka’s haunted genius with their own original offerings. Although there are a few well-known names here — Attrition and Shinjuku Thief most prominent among them — many of the groups were new and welcome discoveries for me. The music is about evenly split between tracks that lean toward the ethereal and those favoring the noisy, but the precise styles vary widely, from classic industrial to gothic, experimental to dark ambient.

With such a wide range of genres represented, no one person is likely to fall in love with every track on the album. But from my listening, the quality of the tracks was high enough overall that even the ones that weren’t quite my “thing” were still enjoyable and ear-opening; in fact, there was only one I really thought was awful, a derivative goth retread from Garden Of Dreams, complete with hero moping about the lover that left him, hollow drum machines, and uninteresting male vocals. Leaving aside that track, though, I found a heck of a lot to enjoy here.

The opening “Metamorphosis” from Attrition sets the perfect tone for the disc, blending claustrophobic, all-enveloping synth and sweet but doomed violin and viola. The strings had a bit of a gypsy feel to me, like a creative soul straining against the cruel, stifling grayness and sameness and ordinariness of the world (as Kafka and the hero of this story did). I’d never heard Mara’s Torment before, but their dark ambient “Absently Gazing Out” really impressed me, with brooding and ethereal synths settling like the purple fingers of twilight around your neck, slowly squeezing, while the lovely stars shimmer brightly in the absent heavens the dreamer of darkness absently gazes at through his filthy attic window. Benjamin Stauffer, too, was new to me, but his lovely fragile piano work on “Imaginosis” was just amazing, with synth swelling beneath and rising in thick clouds, obscuring the horizon, roiling and then clearing on vision after vision of terrible beauty. As usual, the apocalyptic folk stylings of Neither/Neither World blew me away, with hypnotically strummed guitar and beautiful child-innocent female voice both singing and whispering, haunted and haunting. And I was also extremely impressed with Shinjuku Thief’s impressionistic portrayal of “An Awful Autumn” with sensitive and ominous piano, synth, and samples.

All in all, A Cage Went in Search of a Bird is a fine tribute to Kafka’s dark visions and demon-haunted soul. Any fan of darkwave music should enjoy it.

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