Recording information: Herzog Studio, Roma, Italy.
Twin Horses is a split offering from Lydia Lunch, guitarist Cypress Grove, and Italian dark folk outfit Spiritual Front. It is a complementary match. Lunch and Grove -- as evidenced by their work on the Jeffrey Lee Pierce tributes and their A Fistful of Desert Blues from 2014 -- have woven together various strains of blues, folk, noir-ish American Gothic, roots rock, and cinematic atmospherics into an identity. Spiritual Front, led by enigmatic chansonnier and guitarist Simone Salvatori, have been around since 1999. Their meld of neo-classical, doomy rock, various European, Mediterranean, and South American folk and cabaret styles melds concept and mood with considerable musical craft and charismatic force. Lunch and Grove open the album with one of two covers. Nikki Sudden's "Death Is Hanging Over Me" features (uncharacteristically) Grove on lead vocals and Lunch as his duet partner. Its instruments are sparsely strummed acoustic and reverbed electric slide guitars. "Rising Moon" is an eerie waltz, carried by the Lunch's voice atop acoustic slide guitar, banjo, percussion, and ambient textures. Full of foreboding, it could have come right out of a James M. Cain novel. Their other cover is the Eagles' "Hotel California." It scrapes the sheeny surface to get down inside its desert country feel and, as spoken/sung by Lunch, offers myriad layers of the lyric's meaning -- not without twisted humor and irony, either. Salvatori's subterranean grain of a voice is the male counterpart to Lunch's -- deep, ragged, and expressive. Spiritual Front's songs criss-cross their vision of spaghetti western-infused Americana ("Buried Front") with a doomed, Morricone-esque sensuality ("My Name Is Written in the Ashes of Mouraria") courtesy of elegant, even graceful horns, and a flat-out trance-like Gothic rock à la the Sisters of Mercy ("Dear Lucifer"). Their cover here is an artfully rendered acoustic version of W.A.S.P.'s "L.o.v.e. Machine." Their performances, arrangements, and writing are confident and strong. Twin Horses is a curious offering but a solid one; its unmistakably tragic romantic vision is both memorable and unsettling. ~ Thom Jurek