Olga Sarantos has had one interesting life, she’s been betrayed by lover and child, moved from place to place and has had a spot on one of the 2000’s most peculiar sonic storybooks.
Rehearsing My Choir is the Fiery Furnace’s 3rd record, a constant duet between Eleanor Friedburger (Olga’s Granddaughter and lead song spintress of The Furnaces) and her Greek grandmother. Olga never really sings on the record, but more beats out harsh spoken word statements. She “sings” about the most peculiar and wondrous parts of her childhood, teen years and adulthood. Her story is joyous and triumphant at times, and sad at others. If her story is to be believed or not is your decision, but it is definitely an absurd and interesting listen, chronicling her run ins with enemies, slave labor and accidental injuries of the heart and mind, a you’ll laugh, you’ll cry sort of deal. Unfortunately Olga’s vocals are very discordant and annoying to listen too, though occasionally they add to the record’s overall sound and beauty, but mostly end up like that old woman who has fallen and can’t up. The record probably would’ve done better with William Shatner to be honest.
But I guess besides Olga’s babbling the album has quite a fantastic sound. The Furnaces play a blend of prog, classical jazz piano, indie rock prowess and electronic babbling. The lyrics are calming, vivid and vintage poetry, folded through and under Eleanor’s strong and silly warble and brother, Matthew’s synthesizer wizardry. They all chronicle Olga’s life in early 1900’s America. Some songs are happy and bouncy, while others are solemn and beautiful. Then again it’s hard to pick out a certain tempo for each song, because Friedburger’s glitched and ever-evolving production never stops, each song acts as a mini-epic, going from what could be simple minimal pop, to dense indie electronica and back to accapella singing or maybe even a bit of jazz or blues. The album’s backing music works much like The Mars Volta would reading a Harry Potter book, its unpredictable, vivid and fun through-out everything. The album is more progressive then anything I’ve heard in which the band did not contain at least 3 afros.
Rehearsing my Choir is an opera. That’s basically the case. Songs like Seven Silver Curses even go into operatic break-downs, with dark and fast paced piano and soaring vocal melodies. Of course that song also features a punk rock bridge featuring the same kind of heavy Sleater-Kinney style guitar and vocals that have been forgone since the debut album. But guitar really has no place on this record, no it’s much more fitting when Matt lets his left and right hands dance down the keys of his Moog with the care and perfection of true artist. The effected synths, organs and Dresden Dolls like toy piano of Olga’s tragic tale of love lost Though Let’s Be Fair are perhaps some of the best I’ve ever heard, tragic, sexy and dark are word’s that come to mind to describe the song’s ballad time beauty, but none seem to work. Though it may be the shortest song on the album TLBF features some of the best musical work through-out the whole record.
Anyone who likes anything to do with musicals or alternative music should check out this album, though the shortness of many fragments of each song may leave you with a bit of longing, it is a wondrous, frolicking record that never plays the same part twice and never gets boring. Some may claim that it is just weird for the sake of being weird, but no one can deny that the album has tons of nostalgic substance and can entertain for days. Olga’s vocals get to be a pain, but add a sense of realism to each word and bring all the music back home. Rehearsing My Choir is as great a modern epic as I have ever heard told, a story of the old and the young that I have never heard before, full of emotion as well as surrealistic indie pop sounds and black humor. The Fiery Furnaces dance to the sound of a different drum (but many times nothing but a piano) and this CD benefits from it. I think I may be in love with Eleanor Friedburger.