Lots of bands write concept albums, but few have tried to write a concept album quite like the one The Cemetery Improvement Society, a Madison two-piece composed of Marc Claggett and Brad Hawes, is about to release.
The album, called J.A.N.E., is the soundtrack to a prostitute's life. It's a life of layered identities and layered sounds, ranging from the noise of violence to silent moments of reflection, despair and aftermath.
"I had been watching a lot of movies and documentaries about prostitution and sampling conversations and monologues that stood out to me, not really knowing what I was going to use them for," Claggett recalls about the formative stages of the album.
Once the idea came together, it was hard to get it out of his head -- not because of the seediness of the theme, but because it seemed to present so many musical possibilities. This was especially true for the last song on the disc: "Pimp Killer."
"J.A.N.E. has lost absolutely everything and in a final rage, murders her pimp," Clagget explains, adding that he and Hawes are "absolutely hoping [to] finally bridge the gap between electronica and gangsta rap."
The song begins with some electronic noise that sounds a bit like a space battle or a malfunctioning video game. There's a DJ Shadow vibe when voices pierce the veil these sounds have created, making it sound more human than machine. Pretty soon, a snake-charmer melody is introduced, and the song works its way into a groove that starts out funky and grows into something epic, in a Radiohead-meets-Wu-Tang sort of way.
By its end, the song's conjuring images of dirty sheets and rusty dumpsters as the sounds of gunfire ricochet off of the sultry beat the band's established.
It's that moment right before the bullets that fascinates Claggett the most.
"My favorite part of this song is at the end, when all of the layered programming and guitar synths kick in. It sounds like a soundtrack to The Terminator," he says.
Whether he's comparing Ahnold to a call girl or commenting on the song's apocalyptic ending, one thing's for sure: "Pimp Killer" is worth a listen.
Listen to an mp3 of "Pimp Killer" in the related files at right. More music by The Cemetery Improvement Society is available on the duo's MySpace page. The band will introduce J.A.N.E. at a release show at the Frequency on Saturday, June 19.
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