Recorded in 2003/2004 at Chez Dots/Studio Klaverland.
The Poppy Variations is the ill-natured twin of The Whispering Wall -- the qlippothic, mirror-universe reflection, residing in the shadowy nightside of Eden. Where Whispering is right in line with LPD's current manifestation and evolution, Poppy is entirely regressive and even transgressive. Where Whispering is often joyful and musically rich, Poppy is spare, prickly and pessimistic. Rather than a series of inviting, accessible compositions, LPD creates a series of perverse spectral enigmas, even utilizing samples and reworkings of their older material, in some attempt at painstaking self-reflection and exegesis. Edward Ka-Spel's lyrics aren't as bemused and detached as usual here, instead, on many of the tracks, he sounds downright miserable, displaying the kind of perplexed mental fragmentation familiar from early Dots material like Asylum. Long sections of near-silence and passages exhibiting the kind of wildly unorthodox experimentation not heard since the Steven Stapleton-produced Malachai: Shadow Weaver part 2 make this album one of LPD's most difficult propositions in recent memory. It's a schizophrenic experience attempting to place this album in context with The Whispering Wall; best, then, to evaluate it on its own merits. Which are many, especially for diehard fans of early Dots (read: freaks of nature) - the jagged, minimal electronics and Ka-Spel's piercing graveyard whine, staccato drum machine rhythms, bizarre samples, loops and low-budget psychedelic touches that contribute to an air of drugged-out bedroom insanity. The hazy, summer buzz of "Krussoe" shifts and festers in the background, as Ka-Spel mutters: "All I have is sand, a withered hand, a pile of cans, they're rusting." More nautical metaphors (see Ka-Spel's Pieces of 8), this time the bedraggled literary castaway wishing for a ship to come and take him away from his tropical hell. Even the song names on The Poppy Variations seem to echo the album's dire outlook: "Personal Monster" and "It Doesn't Matter Anway," a pair of songs that echo early Dots melodies, minimal treatments, up-close vocals explicating the most dreadful futuristic angst. "L'oiseau Rare (Pt. 1 & 2)" begins with wacky jungle-drums and bouncing vocals familiar from "Crumbs on the Carpet," but it quickly segues into a lengthy excursion through enigmatic unfoldings of ambient meandering, lost in a vast interplanetary garbage scow at night. It's as frightening, haunted and lonely as The Tower or parts of Crushed Velvet Apocalypse. An Orson Welles-ish radio drama voice slips out of the aethyr on "The Hot Breath on Your Neck," creepily intoning: "It...is...later...than...you...think....," to which a resigned Ka-Spel replies: "I know, you don't have to rub it in, do you?" Ouch. Things end on a note of spectacularly epic melancholy, with the two-part, 25-minute picaresque musical patchwork of the title track, which uses the classic track "Poppy Day" as a jumping off point for a lengthy meditation on depression and addiction. I've never felt so far away listening to music on my headphones, the track traveling through mental corridors, collecting faded memories and obsessed spirits, ultimately exploding into a massive and sinister soundscape of disembodied voices, radioactive swipes of brain-frying sound, cold metallic insectoid textures and distant, reverberating funereal choruses of bagpipes. In its own twisted, cadaverous way, The Poppy Variations is an even finer accomplishment than The Whispering Wall, a spooked missive from deep in the heart of the abyss. - Jonathan Dean, Brainwashed
Ed. of 450 copies in a full color sleeve & 2 - 180 gram audiophile LP's & bonus 4th side of material. The songs feature a slightly different mix than the CD edition.From the opening clogging cadence & cicada drone of Krussoe, the air begins to smell something like an Asylum on the eve of a Crushed Velvet Apocalypse. Poppy Variations isn't aping old LPD material (though it samples & processes it in the background). PV has, rather, captured those warm, heady, sweetly melodic tones of the old guard. Personal Monster & The Equaliser further evoke the thudding undercurrents & whimsy of Ancestral Dots. Crisp, walking bass stabs; percolating sequences; saxes & flutes conversing with the electronics, Edward's voice quietly projecting, as from an interstellar transmission...brilliant! The acoustic L'Oiseau Rare is a beautifully bright psych/folk piece that disintegrates into flanged electricity whose melody sounds like someone trying to tune a short wave radio to one of those weird numbers stations. New member Erik Drost's (Girlfriends) subdued guitar ministrations weave carefully & sparingly into the mix. The production as a whole (Raymond Steeg/Edward Ka Spel) does not hesitate to sound like the Viking II L&er on extended sonic missions. Songs w&er out into the witch-filled wardrobe & then return for an outro. Why, there's even a ballad that could be classified as pretty (not "cherubs & ice cream" pretty, but more "latter day Nick Cave broody" pretty). The album ends on an appropriately cosmic & amazing grace note, experimentally riffing on "Poppy Day," but only referentially, until a brace of m&rax-dosed, astral pipers shows up to chase away lingering ghosts. PV is absolutely one of LPD's finest, most inspired constructions. Not a day in the life should go by without a tiptoe through the poppies...
I guess the seed of the "Poppy Variations" was sown back in the year 1997. The Pink Dots were on the way to New Orleans in a recreational vehicle and when the heat and the journey was too hard we pulled up and booked a motel room somewhere in Alabama. Typically we had almost no money so just two of the band had the luxury of a "real" bed while the rest of us collapsed sweating on, rather than IN sleeping bags. It was early in the morning when we heard about the death of princess Diana in that underpass in Paris. I never paid much attention to the British Royal Family before but this felt unreal and utterly tragic. In the bus we could speak of nothing else, but as we tried to squeeze more information from the radio all we seemed to reach were mad baptist preachers offering expensive tickets to somewhere that wasn't hell, but of course THEY would be there. Roll on seven years and the day came back. I'd been playing with the words for poppy Variations Part 1 for years...finally they came to me. And so to Part 2 that began from a snippet of bagpipes from the funeral of king george V in 1936. An old BBC record, battered , scratched...I just worked up on it, extended it, looped it,reversed it ,sent it to the angels who threw it back on a paper plane. That piece saved me at a time when I was having a lot of self doubt. That tiny scrap of bagpipe music opened the floodgates. More pieces followed, I replaced at least two vocal parts and sets of lyrics of "Whispering Wall' which was coming to a conclusion, I just felt liberated. "Poppy V" was initially going to be a solo album , but the rest of the Dots reacted favourably to the songs when i played them to everybody so we arranged a day when the rest of the band would "finish" the album. It was a great day- early morning until night in Niels' barn. Lots of spontaneity although nobody really wanted to touch Poppy Variations part 2 which divides us all to this day. Im still proud of that one, but I always liked a good noise... I love "Poppy variations"- it pulled me out of a crisis and sounds like an old friend. - Edward Ka-Spel