For my money, one of the best albums to come out of the godless year of 2020 was Black Nail Cabaret’s Gods Verging on Sanity. The Hungarian duo’s take on dark pop, voiced spirit-smoothly by Emese Arvai-Illes, is danceable and devilishly enjoyable. For three years now, fans have been waiting to see what comes next, and the answer is a special live album known as Woodland Memoirs.
Bringing along guitarist Tamás Számvéber, saxophone player Márton Barják (ex-CsizmáSKAndúr), and drummer Péter Laskay, Emese and keyboardist Krisztian Arvai breathe new life into eleven songs from their extensive catalog. The woodland in Woodland Memoirs comes from the band’s recording of the record in the Agostyán Arboretum in Tata, Hungary. A stark departure from the band’s usual locales such as cathedrals and smoky nightclubs, this vibrant landscape only further freshens up the band’s rich sound and avant-garde tendencies.
Thus far, we’ve been granted two tastes of what is to come from the album, set to release on Dependent Records on May 26th. The first was the new version of “Sister Sister,” originally appearing as the opening track on 2016’s Dichromat. While the original cut is a bouncy synthpop number with razor-sharp leads and melodies, this new alternative version is a smoky lounge ditty with the saxophone working a sort of call and response with Emese’s vocals in the second verse. It’s slow, smooth jazz that offers a much more refined sway than the clubby sort of sway that might be invoked by the original cut. By the final lines, the harmonies between the vocals and the sax make for a sensuous and satisfying conclusion.
More recently, we’ve been treated to a new version of the sultry “Veronica,” the original song coming from the band’s 2012 debut Emerald City. Much like the first twist, this new version takes the synthpop stylings of the original and gives it a new lease on life. This time, though, the backbone is hard rock, with the guitar being the main instrumental voice while the sax adds its share of flourishes and flash to the party. All in all, the new version is a different breed of raucous, yet still as sexually charged and provocative as the original article.
For those who crave the physical, there are 500 copies of the Strictly Limited Edition, which includes the full album on CD and a 36-page hardcover book with photos taken from the performance by Dora Hrisztu-Pazonyi. Following the album’s release, the band has a handful of summer shows between Germany and Sweden.
Woodland Memoirs will release via Dependent Records on May 26th.