ANYONE up for a “queer retelling” of the Brothers Grimm fairytales?
If so, get down to PS Art Space on Saturday night where Nika Mo will do a rare live performance of her album Of Cloven Hoof in Honey; a modern and slightly spooky take on some of the more obscure fairytales published by Brothers Grimm in the early 1800s.
The concert comes in the wake of Puffin coping flack for modernising Roald Dahl’s classic childrens books with hundreds of changes including making the Oompa-Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory gender neutral and calling Augustus Gloop enormous rather than fat.
Whether you are in the camp of you can’t re-write history and it’s political correctness gone mad or it’s time these hoary yarns were updated for the 21st century, you can’t deny Mo’s music on Cloven Hoof in Honey is utterly enchanting and beguiling.
The track The Messengers of Death is particularly haunting; chiming guitars, shimmering cymbals and delicate percussion conjure up images of gloomy forests, sprites and the odd shaft of light piercing the tree canopy.
Floating on top is Mo’s gorgeous voice – delicate, slightly vulnerable with a male singer trading verses as the story unfolds.
There’s a big cast of musicians on the album, playing everything from double bass to clarinet, and they do a grand job of creating a mystical and eerie soundscape for her enigmatic voice.
The end result is a bit like Belle and Sebastian stretching into orchestral territory with a touch of the Juno soundtrack.
The album liner notes provide an interesting insight into Mo’s creative thinking:
‘One might wonder what is still relevant about the Grimm’s Fairytales; the social inequities and religious undertones of 19th century German culture are so solidly written into these stories, they’re like a fableist brick framework, holding each line firmly in (ideological) place.
‘But in the shadow of the more widely known stories (Rumplestiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel), there are gooier, stranger, more unearthly things lurking.
‘I feel genuine child-like glee as characters sprout feathers and make room-mates with a lion, or without surprise or alarm, communicate with the Devil, and Death; striking bargains and asking for help.
‘I also feel a morbid fascination as a character discovers her sisters’ dismembered bodies then proceeds to reassemble them), or a disquieting queasiness reading the tale of How Some Children Played at Slaughtering, (which you can infer from the title, was not a fairytale ending).
‘I find myself revelling in the fluidity of them; both the literal presence of many fluids (bodily and otherwise), and also the metaphorical slipperiness of the characters’ physical forms.’
It will be a challenge to perform the album live, and on the night Mo will be backed by a “a cast of pop mavericks and avant-garde improvisers … vividly setting the scene for dark and intriguing storytelling.”
On the same bill is Dale Gorfinkel, an innovative percussionist and sound-maker who uses a variety of wacky, modified instruments.
Part of the Kinds of Light concert series, Of Cloven Hoof in Honey is at PS Art Space on Pakenham Street, Fremantle at 7pm tonight (Saturday March 4) with tickets pay-what-you-can at the door with a suggested price of $25 or $15 depending on your means. There will also be a post-concert discussion.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK