If the whispered lyrics and foreboding synths and strings feel ominous at first listen, give it a song or two. Check out the mesmerizing stop-motion video for “The Clock at the Back of the Cage.” You’ll be pulled into the noir dream-world of I Can Spin a Rainbow, and you won’t want to leave.
I Can Spin a Rainbow is a collaboration between Amanda Palmer, who is known both for her genre-defying solo work and punk-inflected The Dresden Dolls, and Edward Ka-Spel and Patrick Q. Wright of the experimental/psychedelic rock band Legendary Pink Dots.
Their work has garnered a devoted following. On Sunday night, the capacity crowd at Rough Trade – many of whom were in attendance at Bowery Ballroom the night before – provided as much visual delight as the artists on stage. One fan wore a light-up ball gown. Others completed their cabaret-goth outfits by pinning playing cards to their shirts and hats. And it’s easy to see why these artists inspire this level of adoration. The songs may sound chilling, as if Mr. Dark from Something Wicked This Way Comes wound up a music box and picked up a violin. But the darkness that lurks behind the lyrics is in counterpoint to the genuinely warm, human connection engendered by the musicians on stage.
Ms. Palmer introduced “Shahla’s Missing Page” as a song whose genesis was in a news interview with a young girl from a war-torn region. She also told stories that sat on the threshold between reality and dark fantasy (the latter with a creative assist from her partner, Neil Gaiman). When the monitors cut out abruptly mid-set, the trio laughed through the equipment trouble-shooting, quipping that in this strange world of alternative facts where “if you don’t believe in something, it simply isn’t true” – that “none of this just happened.”
In a particularly moving moment, Ms. Palmer relayed the back story of the album. She and Mr. Ka-Spel had tried to put this project together years ago, but it was interrupted by the death of a close friend. “There are humans behind the music you listen to,” she continued, reminding us that for all the glitz and polish of the commercial music industry, it still takes people to make these songs – individuals who are at a certain point in their lives, coming together in a single place at a particular time.
The trio’s set included LPD songs “The Unlikely Event” and “Fifteen Flies in the Marmalade,” and in a playful moment, Mr. Wright handed off his electric-blue violin to Ms. Palmer, querying: “Wait, do you even know how to play violin?” (She does.)
Sandwiched between audience members who knew every word to every song, I couldn’t help but suspect that critics who have panned this album as inaccessible have never bothered to attend a live show. The connection is undeniable and the lyrics and haunting textures flirt with the contrast between light and dark, intimacy and alienation. It’s unsettling, like some twisted parody of a bedtime lullaby. It’ll give you the chills. And it will make you return for more.
Article: Vivian Wang