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Munly & The Lupercalians
Petr & The Wulf
Alternative Tentacles Records
www.alternativetentacles.com


Leave it to J. Munly, the erstwhile second voice behind Slim Cessna's Auto Club, the purveyor of such phantasmagorical musical eloquences as Munly And The Lee Lewis Harlots and now The Lupercalians, to bring the modern musical world a dark, new world interpretation of Prokofiev's amazing Peter And The Wolf. For those of us who were raised on the Walt Disney animated version of Peter, this new translation will have a few moments of touching familiarity, but for the most part this record goes to very dark places and rarely strays into the light.

The record begins with the overture, "Scarewulf", pre-telling the story's arc in a short span and introducing some of the more twisted themes found in this tale. "Petr" introduces us to the grim subject of our story and tells us of his struggle with his demented grandfather and his trials in becoming a man. Munly's poetry here is at its finest, weaving imagery and words in a darkened way that only he could do. The story is continued, but reverses viewpoints in "Grandfater", finally revealing Petr's dark obsession with the wolf that has been harrying the people of the town. Up until this point the music has been very dark and gypsy-tinged, backed by strings and balalaikas, recalling the folk music of the Eastern European states, but "Bird" introduces a lighter flavor to the record, sounding almost like a late-era David Byrne tune. Here, the piccolo that so many are familiar with from Prokofiev makes an appearance, as the song moves from a lilting light introduction to a thick, vocal heavy dirge. The mood returns to dark rather quickly again when "Cat" begins to lurk about… but the music takes a weirdly drunken, swaggering turn and veers back and forth from a meandering lovely folk tune to a stomping, angry tune that shows a bit of the madness embedded in the cat's psyche. "Duk" is a weirdly carnival-esque tune that looms heavily, laden with oboe and stomping rhythms. Munly pulls a quick one here and works in some childhood games to keep the song interesting and fun, keenly offsetting the righteous importance of the simple-minded fellow.

"Three Wise hunters" takes the bad situation and turns it worse as the three kings arrive in town to liberate the people from the wolf, only to impose their own heavy-handed rule on the town. Munly takes a brilliant idea and makes it larger than life by naming the hunters after kings of old, imparting images already sown by the mythos of Western civilization. Marcus Aurelius brings his strength and devastation to the eerie tale, while Lucius brings blessings from the Sea. The song turns sickly and pale as Jonas, lord of the Underworld, joins in the charade, putting a weird slow-down on the album that turns everything a bit sideways. Finally, we arrive at "Wulf", the bluesy, keening tale from the perspective of the forest hunter that is perhaps the most unsettling song of all. All the former darkness pales in comparison to the obscure madness and fierce interior struggles of the wolf. The wolf's tale runs from self-loathing to empowerment to fear and bitterness, the music moving between movements lithely, always backed by a pounding drumbeat and a vicious acoustic guitar, throttling home a desperate rhythm. The wolf is very obviously aware of the fear he inspires and his meanderings among the town, and casually - if madly - considers all his actions and plans his own ultimate demise.

Munly's dark world interpretation of the classic story would serve well as a soundtrack to Suzie Templeton's 2008 animated re-telling of Peter And The Wolf. That film was dark and twisted, not a tale for children, and J. Munly delivers exactly the same sort of disturbing feeling with his weirdly irreverent gypsy music throughout this record.

-Embo Blake

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