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The Black Heart Procession | Self-titled (Headhunter/Cargo US)
There were few greater crimes in 1998 than the fact that this record failed to make a monumental mark upon the collective minds of the UK's music fans. The Black Heart Procession, brought to my attention by an astute American friend, stands as the year's most desolate, emotional and devastating record, matched only, and only possibly, by Sophia's wracked The Infinite Circle. Without wishing to give the impression that this is an unbearable listening experience, quite how the closing track Heart The Size Of A Horse came to be recorded without the band collapsing in weeping heaps during every attempt is as great a mystery as the fact that they have maintained such a high level of intensity throughout. In its chiming major key piano line, in stark contrast to the heart rending minor key numbers preceding, it offers as uplifting an experience as one could wish for. This is no Red House Painters miserablist experience, you see. Musically this has more in common with Tom Waits or maybe a less hammy Nick Cave. The extraordinary arrangements, with piano flourishes to the fore and sparse keyboard drones, singing saws and the whistling of the wind underneath it all, see that The Black Heart Procession manages to spotlight the aching wonder of sadness, the fact that pain is sometimes such a sweet emotion. And to tip the scales back in favour of inner strength there are several almost jaunty, upbeat tracks. Dispensing with self-pity and instead replacing it with a sense of calm and indulgent resignation, this is a fine, fine album, as good as any released in 1998.
CWAS #4 - Winter 1998/9 - The Lost Issue