The Parlour Trick are the Californian duo of neo-Victorian visionary Meredith Yayanos and Emmy-winning composer Dan Cantrell. Conceived as a solo Yayanos vehicle in the mid-aughts, 2009 saw the project find firm identity as a collaboration with Cantrell whenever the former (then New Zealand-based) visited Oakland. Over three years, the pair expertly hewed their self-described ‘haunted chamber music’ into a schizotypal-yet-consonant sequence of consummate ethereality; abetted by a very successful Kickstarter campaign, said work corporeally manifested as A Blessed Unrest (named for a Martha Graham witticism) on both compact disc and vinyl formats.
Given the unavoidable preciousness of works courting antiquation and esoterism, lesser hands would undoubtedly collapse under A Blessed Unrest’s conceptual weight, tragically simplifying its ambitions to little more than sterile steampunk mess or gauche Renaissance fair glut; however, few engineers working today are able to resolve fidelity with character as expertly as Dan Rathbun, and his welcome presence on all but two tracks is essential for keeping these opulent ideas and graceful performances from devolving into such overwrought saccharinities. While still more soberly rendered than the signature romantic haze of golden-age 4AD product, the end result easily echoes elements of This Mortal Coil’s more atmospheric moments while also evoking memories of independent video-game The Path’s fantastic and fragile Jarboe score (apt given Yayanos’ subsequent work with Jarboe in Homeric collagist quintet AEAEA).
For those who missed out on it the first time, A Blessed Unrest is seeing imminent vinyl reissue. While many bundles are available, even the standalone double-LP is – at $40 – priced for newer fans at a level of prohibitive (if not appropriate) richness; yet, as original pressings routinely fetch low three-digit sums on the rare occasions that they surface, the record’s longtime appreciators will undoubtedly pursue the comparative inexpensiveness of this welcome repress.