HECTOR Bizerk are notorious for pushing the boundaries for what is creatively possible within their music so it is no wonder that after two studio albums the duo have garnered so much attention. One of the foremost experimental hip-hop groups plying their trade within the UK, they excel in eloquently describing the everyday struggles of citizens not only from their native ouieand, but of the world as a whole. Following the release of both The Fish That Never Swam and The Bird That Never Flew; two releases that demonstrated the lyrical prowess of MC Louie as well as their cohesiveness as a band as a whole, they’ve turned their hand to the kind of project that most musicians would steer clear of due to the magnitude of the task.
Their latest output The Waltz Of Modern Psychiatry was written as a musical accompaniment to the forthcoming Nicola McCartney play ‘Crazy Jane’ and sees the group take on the narrative of an mentally-ill can-can dancer residing in 19th Century Paris. The show, in correspondance with director Garry Robson and choreographer Janice Parker, isn’t your run of the mill play as it pits the sights and wonders of Moulin Rouge era Paris against the gritty and candid back streets of Glasgow to both comical and astounding effect.
The rapping and musicianships are a concoction of history and modernity that add coherence to the play as the production’s stars prepare to take to the road for their tour after a short run at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre. Whils the brazen nature of the band for undertaking such a task must be respected in itself, what they’ve produced is worth even nothing short of adoration. The play’s central narrative allows frontman Louie, drummer Audrey Tait, Fraser Sneddon on percussion and David Calder on synth to delve into the world of the ingrained stigma and lack of comprehension towardsmental health issues that was present the past and makes a stark comparison between those issues and the ones that arise in modern day Britain.
The album kicks off with ‘Overture for Jane’, an instrumental, and strictly Parisian sounding waltz, but it makes for a beautiful piece of music that sets the tone for the rest of the album effectively. ‘The Waltz of Modern Psychiatry’ continues in a similar fashion, a beautiful melody is constructed with spanish footwork and the directness of Louie’s vocals offer a stark juxtaposition to the instrumentation which balances fragility with agressiveness, linking in with the idea of mental health as he preaches: “Stay motionless/ Take the leap of faith and go for it/ Keep it together when you’re expected to fall apart.” All of these aspects act to introduce a female vocal that channels Portishead at their most effective. In ‘Children on Fire’, Louie’s wub backed vocals beg an eeire comparison to those of fellow Scot Nightmare Boy, this is further supported by a western style chord scheme that strides into a rap that displays Louie’s distinctive thick Scottish flow that has transformed him into Scotland’s most successful MC.
The album takes advantage of Louie’s gift for storytelling to build an incaptulating experience and to get across the moral lessons that the group seek to address. ‘En Pointe’ speaks of the “freakshow” and “hiding lacerations” whilst ‘Welcome to the Nuthouse’ combines tormenting stories about the intense abuse inside an insane asylum with light-hearted theme park style music. Including a narrative of a tour guide which portrays the image that the mentally-ill were treated like animals in a zoo back in the day, the narrative also touches on modern societies attitudes to mental illness and the issue of dismissive attitudes towards sufferers: “That concludes today’s entertainment/ I trust you have enjoyed yourself.” This track functions brilliantly as a song aswell as a story as the impressive flow of Louie glides in and out of Audrey Tait’s relentless drum beat and empowered bassline before taking on a expertly put together samba style drum concession from Tait.
The Waltz of Modern Psychiatry is a masterclass in storytelling and leftfield musical intricacy. Audrey Tait’s production and musicianship is without a doubt the absolute cornerstone of the album. At first glance, you could easily think this record shouldn’t work but it does, and brilliantly too. Effortlessly mixing Scottish flow with foreign backdrops; be that Spanish guitar or Samba style drums, the album also highlights important issues and might just be Hector Bizerk’s best work to date.