‘Idiot Songs’ is an intriguing concept album composed and performed by Pearse McGloughlin and Justin Grounds. The album is inspired by the writings of Russian author Dostoevsky, and especially his book The Idiot. The group have labelled their unique sound as ‘electronic chamber music,’ and this crazy description of their sound should be enough to send your curiosity into overload. With a tag like that, ‘Idiot Songs’ is worth a listen just to see what exactly electronic chamber music is.
The Courage of The Truth opens with a solo fiddle motif, and the airy melody is an achingly beautiful piece of musicianship. An autoharp begins, and eventually delicate vocals join the fiddle into making this an enticing and teasing beginning to the album, the sort that leaves you yearning for more. Electronic beats make an appearance on Natasya’s Tears, and the rich, expressive vocal performance, coupled with the violin accompaniment, make this track the most exceptional on the record. The chorus is sung sincerely, and is moving to the point of being heart-wrenching. The unorthodox combination of electronic beats with a gentle guitar and violin accompaniment culminate in making this a strange and startling listen.
The album does not quite reach the breath-taking highs of Natasya’s Tears again, but there are tracks that come close to provoking the same emotional reaction. Villages of Ether is almost post-rock in style, with the uplifting piano part juxtaposed with the sinister violin section. Jung Trickster is another track that showcases the duo’s ability to create a wonderfully catchy chorus using the simplest arrangements. In this track, the outstanding vocals are accompanied by a simple beat and a few subtle effects. Once more the violin adds an extra dimension that contributes to the striking atmosphere that the whole album generates. The stark and minimalist pieces allow the heartfelt vocals to tell a story all of their own. The album closes with Epilogue (Myshkin Tree), and this short piece provides the function of a dramatic full stop for the work, with the violin’s strong presence ending the album as it began; in a blaze of bewildering glory.
‘Idiot Songs’ is a powerful and expressive work of art, and at just over half an hour long, does not overstay its welcome. Combining electronic percussion with more traditional instruments, ‘electronic chamber music’ could not be a more accurate description of the unique and frankly bizarre use of instruments that features throughout ‘Idiot Songs’.