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Beat Circus: Dreamland

Music (good music, at least) takes listeners to places they've never been. Dreamland the first part in Beat Circus' "Weird American Gothic" trilogy of song cycles, written by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brian Carpenter transports listeners to turn-of-the-century Coney Island. To create this smorgasbord of dark Americana and freak culture, Carpenter wrote a 150-page score that blends vaudeville, cabaret, parlor songs and other pre-jazz musical idioms with modern production and post-rock tendencies. The result is an engaging album that captures a colorful slice of American culture circa the early 1900s.

Dreamland is based on historical facts surrounding the Coney Island amusement park of the same name interwoven with the fictional tale of an impoverished alcoholic gold miner who makes a pact with the devil before fleeing East to work in Dreamland's sideshows. That Carpenter manages to tell this story and convey the mood of an era in a mere 45 minutes (using no fewer than 22 musicians and vocalists) makes this magical album a must-hear for both history buffs and fans of adventurous music.

Two examples of how effectively Beat Circus sets the scene can be heard in "Coney Island Creep Show," a twisted circus-act of a song that sums up Dreamland's existence as a so-called "surreal and macabre world of horrors and delights," and "Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland," an eerie piano requiem filled with haunting thrill-ride shrieks. Elsewhere, banjo, tuba, trombone, harmonica, washboard and creepy vocals combine to dance around "The Ghost of Emma Jean," and "The Rough Riders" takes a cue from the Old West. Colorful artwork and historical photos in the booklet enhance the listening experience. (Incidentally, Dreamland which opened in 1904 closed in 1911 for remodeling and repainting. But the night before it was slated to reopen, a fire broke out during repairs in an attraction called "Hell Gate" and Dreamland burned to the ground. It was never rebuilt.)

Note: The second part of Beat Circus' "Weird American Gothic" series, Boy from Black Mountain a song cycle inspired by Carpenter's experience of living with an autistic son, as well as the lives of his watermelon-farming father and grandfather in the Bible Belt is out now.

Track Listing:
1) Gyp the Blood
2) The Ghost of Emma Jean
3) Hypnogogia
4) Delirium Tremens
5) Lucid State
6) Death Fugue
7) The Good Witch
8) Dark Eyes
9) Slavochka
10) The Gem Saloon
11) El Torero
12) The Rough Riders
13) Coney Island Creepshow
14) Hell Gate
15) Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland
16) March of the Freaks

Added: February 2nd 2010
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Beat Circus Web Site
Hits: 2588
Language: english

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