Off the back of a critically acclaimed season at New York Fringe, City Of Shadows took you through a grim, eerie jaunt of death, despair and danger. Inspired by forensic and police photographs rescued in the ‘80s from a flooded warehouse in NSW, Rachael Dease compiled an array of images and an original music arrangement to draw evocative emotions from her crowd.
Accompanying Dease’s deep vocals were four talented musicians gracing the stage with two violins, a viola and a cello. The haunting tunes from the mini symphony brought the ghastly humanity of the images to life. Each image portrayed the truthfulness of mankind, with the faces of violent individuals (often murderers) bleary-eyed and staring into your soul. The deathly horrifying and gruesome stills of lifeless dead bodies and the violent locations in which the crimes took place were splashed across the screen like normality.
It was an alarming performance for the unprepared, with smears of blood on the floors and walls, and weapons (for example, butcher knives) often appearing in full view. The shrieks of the moment could almost be felt as the music grew and became more thrilling while the 50-minute performance evolved. Lyrically, there were numerous spiritual references: “God help us, pray for us”. It allowed the mind to wander into the place of a victim, seeking remorse for the acts committed.
As an art piece, this performance expressed not just the beauty of some talented artists but the need for peace in ourselves and compassion towards each other. The closing scene stated “treat each other well”, something the perpetrators in the images didn’t convey. Dease simply aimed make a statement through her show that people matter, and it brought her and her team a standing ovation from the bewildered viewers.
Adrienne Downes - The Music
Armed with omnichord, a drummer and her haunting voice, Dease had little trouble casting her hypnotic spell over the audience. Through her solo work Dease has been picking up a lot of buzz lately and it's not hard to see why. The dark, moody, ambient synth tones made a perfect match to her rich voice. She wove through "All In All Out" and "Win The Losing Game" with the sort of power and vocal control any talent show wannabe would sign their soul over for - XPRESS MAG
Known by most as the front woman of Schvendes, it is clearly evident from her performance tonight that Dease’s solo career is one to watch. Her vocals, ranging from dreamy ethereal pop to an eerie, almost terrifying croon, made for an enigmatic and exciting performance. - LIFE IS NOISE
Maintaining pop sensibilities among some sorcerous songwriting (think Karen O under the influence of David Lynch), the engaging vocal talents of Dease allowed her to pull off a very challenging aesthetic - DRUM MEDIA
Perth’s inaugural Fringe Festival wrapped up with a celebration of high achievements and entertaining performances at the Fringe World Awards.
Rachael Dease’s City of Shadows won the prestigious Western Power inaugural Marin Sims Award for most promising Western Australian Work, worth $10,000.
Dease will receive assistance to tour her work to other fringe festivals with management support from Fringe World, Perth and the World Fringe Alliance.
The Award is named after Martin Sims, an important arts advocate in WA. Sims was a Western Power employee for 22 years and an Artrage Board member for three years. The Award recognises his contribution to the arts community.
Western Power Managing Director Doub Aberle, who worked with Sims for more than two decades, presented the award.
"Martin was a passionate supporter of Artrage and fringe artist development and this award is a wonderful celebration of his life and personality,” he said.
“Martin was in many ways the consummate fringe performer on the stage of life. Through this award, Martin Sims’ passion lives on."
The judges described City of Shadows, an original song-cycle sung with live accompaniment, as “devastatingly moving and breath-takingly beautiful”.
Two violins, a cello and electronic soundscapes provided the backdrop to Dease’s song cycles, which were performed in front of a projected display of footage from the 1920s picturing Sydney’s ‘crime file’ police records.
The show was well received by the audience as well, who gave it a standing ovation on opening night, with many audience members reduced to tears.
Director of Prague Fringe, Steve Gove, who was in Perth to serve as a Fringe World Judge commented that the work will win a ‘Fringe First’ at Edinburgh if Rachael chooses to tour it there.
Some kind words from my first solo reviews last weekend (casio country? I'll take it!) :
"Rachael Dease fascinated with her Twin Peaks-y ambient-pop" - Drum Media
"The standout here was easily Rachael Dease, proving that, even without a full band behind her, her amazing voice can captivate a room" - Xpress Mag
"Armed with an Omnichord and a voice, Schvendes temptress Rachael Dease was welcome relief in the beer garden. The crowd swayed to Give Up the Ghost with its air of Casio country and crooning on a doomed ocean cruise." - FasterLouder
"In Schvendes the strings; the cathedral shaped and sky bending strings euro;“ are vital. They add meat to stark song skeletons, they beef them up, make them effing huge and fat in the gut. Singer Rachael Dease threw us all onto our backs in a total I've-just-paid-for-dinner-so-let-me-have-my-way; way, barely moving except to grimace on the tense notes, yet completely commanding our attention. We were like, "Ooh! Okay" and went along with it. It was kind of scary, but also kind of sexy" Mess + Noise
“Their dark country blues now knows where to leave spaces, and that cello goes into your brain, heart, and guts. It sits gently weeping, and counterpointing Rachael's honeyed pain. It has some seductive sexual need to it, and it's transfixing in the way, say, The Devastations can be when they slip an arm around your waist. A cover of the traditional In The Pines is similarly inviting and a little bit dangerous. Ok, a lot dangerous." Drum Sydney
"Schvendes comes across like a female fronted Bad Seeds. Were talking Mr. Cave in his crooning moments here, with the haunting vocals accompanied by the mournful Rhodes piano lines. Shes Waiting has sinister overtones courtesy of mere guitar strums and PJ Harvey-esque vocals as it undulates from caressing you gently to kicking your sorry arse out on to the street screaming at you to never come back". Beat Magazine
“Elevating the text even further are the superb original song cycles crafted by Schvendes band singer and lyricist Rachael Dease. The raven-haired songstress commands a pivotal place on stage; … her sung pearls of wisdom is an exciting new input to Lutton’s work” The Australian
"The Red Curtains opened as a four-piece string section stepped up onstage accompanied by a laptop clad Rachael Dease. What unfolded next was to be the highlight of the evening, as the Seven Scenes Quintet seemed to play exactly that: seven scenes from seven movies. While Dease conducted with one hand the string section, she provided an undercurrent soundscape through her laptop with the other.
It was quite amazing as each instrument provided it's own highlights throughout each composition, whether layering on top of each other to pierce the senses or heading off on four different tangents the delivery was flawless and inspiring. Underneath all this the daunting sounds responsible for the darkened mood coming from Dease's electronic subtleties provided a genuine sense of foreboding..." Drum Perth
“Elevating the text even further are the superb original song cycles crafted by Schvendes band singer and lyricist Rachael Dease. The raven-haired songstress commands a pivotal place on stage; … her sung pearls of wisdom is an exciting new input to Lutton’s work.” The Australian
“Dease’s voice was superb as always, no surprises there. Strong, cutting, lyrical yet never in the way of the action or story.” Australian Stage
“Special credit should go to Rachael Dease for her brilliant music narrative. Her presence and powerful vocals enhance the building tension of the show” Perth Now