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The Scribbler

Shinjuku Thief

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Album Review

In 1992, experimental music project Shinjuku Thief released The Scribbler, a piece commissioned for an Australian arts festival. The album was a "soundtrack" to Franz Kafka's book The Trial, and was performed with accompanying visuals. After a limited initial pressing, Cold Spring reissued and remastered the record in 2007. The reissue reworked/augmented some passages, and included a video of the original visuals. The new package is a revelation; that such mastery lay ignored for so long is criminal, so to speak. By and large, the ingredients are orchestral, though they could be electronically sourced. Industrial touches pepper the album and give it depth. At the outset, strings sketch out minor key themes that return throughout in various shapes; doomy church organ adds menace. Although this album is a soundtrack, it works marvelously by itself. Like the book, it grows progressively more labyrinthine. Textures vary from the barroom piano of "Lanz" to the symphonic density of "Advocate." "Titorelli" has unnervingly anxious, sawing strings. The material is tonal, geometric, and repetitive à la Steve Reich. Yet the soundscape continually shifts, perhaps echoing Josef K's search for a reason behind his tribulations and ultimately his existence. In fact, given the posthumous assembly of the book and its unfinished original state, this album is probably more coherent. It lets in more light than its inspiration, but that only makes its darkness darker.

Biography

Born: Melbourne, Australia

Genre: New Age

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Shinjuku Thief was the alias of experimental electronic artist Darrin Verhagen, also the Melbourne, Australia-based founder of the Dorobo record label. Taking his name from the Nagisa Oshima film Shinjuku Dorobo Nikki ("Diary of a Shinjuku Thief"), Verhagen additionally incorporated cinematic influences into his music by conceiving his work as soundtracks to non-existent films; his debut, 1992's Bloody Tourist, drew equally on ambient and industrial traditions, although in the future his more industrial...
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The Scribbler, Shinjuku Thief
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