Keyboardist-singer-composer Versailles (Dianna St. Clair) has issued a Goth-rock-prog CD often incorporating or inferring symphonic swatches beneath St. Clair's sylphlike voice and dryadic enticements. Superior to the bulk of drek that appeared on the weepy Projekt label (are they even still around?), there are a number of influences here: Bauhaus, Missing Persons, Kate Bush, chunka chunka rock, October Project, a bit of Annie Haslam, Aimee Mann, Tori Amos, all kinds of kindred melodic and emotional sources.
Some cuts work better than others, the problem every so often being a woodenness of beat and coloration. The title cut's an alluring siren plaint well embroidered by St. Clair's synth and piano beside Lucy Levinson's backing vocals, but the drums are hollow and uninflected, a too frequent ingredient throughout the disc, detracting from the wide keyboard presence. Her choice of all other players was apt but not the percussionist, who's two-dimensional in a three-D realm, especially when tracks like Believe build and layer, deserving more authority.
Goth lit its spark in prog, so it's appropriate that Versailles' instrumental hand should be immersed in it. She really can play those keyboards, it's not a pose, but the engineering didn't texture and integrate the instruments well either, so the drummer isn't the only problem. In a few places, the arrangements could've been tweaked for sharper effect but mostly they're well considered. The funereal Massacre expands to enshroud the listener, grey and shadowy, while Mars is a bit bouncier, slightly jazzy, swingin' in a deadpanned fashion germane to the genre.
Broken Dolls is one of those releases brimming with promises only partially delivered. Except for the thuddy drums and engineering, all the elements are there, they're just not always indexed in the manner the material demands. From all indications, two things occurred: 1) St. Clair didn't spend long enough determining her expression or managing it properly, and 2) the techs were too indifferent in the process…waaaay too indifferent! Versailles is being cheated somewhere, but, of course, we don't blame the janitor when the business starts tilting the wrong way, now do we?
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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