Buy The Record, Please

“Let the joy be unconfined!” says Chris Cutler, with good reason. For his ReR Megacorp has just released the second album by Vril, entitled The Fatal Duckpond. Before we go any further, follow this link to buy your copy, immediately. When you come back, read on.

The original trio of Cutler (drums), Lukas Simonis (guitars), and Bob Drake (bass & guitars) is augmented this time by Pierre Omer (guitars). Very sensibly, the puckish combo asked Mr Key to come up with the album and track titles, and to contribute liner notes and illustrations. Here, as a special treat for Hooting Yard readers, are those liner notes. It should be noted that the emboldenment and italicisation of certain words were inserted by Mr Cutler, or one of his minions, to excellent effect.


These notes are reproduced with permission from Beekeepers Write About Compact Discs magazine (a weekly periodical).

As far as I can ascertain, the second album by the band VRIL has been made without any bee involvement whatsoever. These eighteen new waxings by the group – now a quartet – form the soundtrack to the European arthouse film classic The Fatal Duckpond.. Seven hours long, black and white, and silent for large s t r e t c h e s apart from these musical numbers and sparse patches of dialogue mumbled in an incoherent and invented language, the film is a visionary reworking of the 1956 Hollywood western The Bloodsoaked Revenge Of Escobar Beppo, itself an adaptation of a rare and little-performed Jacobean drama whose author was stabbed to death in a brawl and whose corpse was flung into the then stinking Thames.

Importantly, VRIL have based their “groovy sounds” – I think that is the appropriate term – on all three sources. This does make it rather difficult to pinpoint exactly which bit of the plot, or plots, is being evoked in each piece. To take just one example, the fourth track, Baffling Calcium Lantern Light, could refer equally well to the barnyard scene in the new film, the “Casa Incognita” episode in the western, or indeed the bit in the Jacobean drama where the audience always shuddered.

Much as it would be helpful to summarise the plot, of one or all of the sources, it has to be said that it is a hopeless task. The original Jacobean tragedy is a skein of untangleable knots, the western is dense and brooding, and the latest film is frankly incoherent, in the best sense of the word. How the director managed to pull the whole thing together without any bees or beekeepers is a triumph, albeit a strange one.

Ah yes, the director. Rumour has it that behind the person who appears in the (interminable) credits lurks the eerie figure of Horst Gack. It was he who was really pulling the strings, he who took the play and the western and decided to transform them into something quite unprecedented. It is said that he pored over all known texts of the drama for over a decade, and sat through thousands of screenings of the western, sometimes alone, and sometimes accompanied by his mysterious wife and collaborator Primrose Dent. It may even be that the whole thing is the brainchild of Primrose herself. Certainly it was she who got VRIL on board to create the musical soundtrack. She tracked the band down to a squalid cafeteria in Pointy Town, where they had been retained as the regular afternoon entertainment. The cafeteria clientele, an intriguing jumble of matelots, Jesuits, pin cushion sales reps, mountebanks, prestidigitators, and – yes – beekeepers, were so distraught when they learned that Primrose planned to whisk the band away to expensive rehearsal studios in a Swiss canton that they rioted. Wily Primrose filmed the brouhaha and inserted the raw footage into the finished version of The Fatal Duckpond. Unfortunately for us, she shot without sound, so the band were unable to incorporate the din of shouting, thumping, smashing and whatnot into the piece accompanying this section of the film.

All in all, despite its perplexing beelessness, this is a tremendous album, even for those who have never seen the film to which it acts as a soundtrack. And quite honestly, the listener is probably better off not having to sit through hours of bad acting, blurry visual effects, gruesome smudgy charcoal burnings, blank screens, hectoring rants from unseen crew members, and still shots of daffodil-strewn fields.

NOTE : It occurs to me that newer readers may be unaware of the earlier Vril release, Effigies In Cork. You will find an informative note about it here, but one of the links appears to be out of date, so to buy your copy, go here.

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