Jeanne of the Dark is an exploration of the image of the vamp. Rather than tell a story, composer Marko Ciciliani has created an unconventional artwork that derives its imagery and its sound world from a range of reference points transgressing stylistic and cultural boundaries, from vampire movies to eroticism, from heavy metal to cannibalism. The stereotype of the vamp – the seductive but dangerous woman, man-eater, femme fatale, inseparable from the dualistic male view of the female as virgin/whore – is teased out and recontextualised, and a consuming process of attraction and repulsion is set in motion for the listener.
The work is structured in four large panels. The first three, exploring respectively vampirism, eroticism and cannibalism, has each its own particular style. These three parts are then ingeniously superimposed to create the final panel, the most dense part of the work, which both manifests and unpicks the multiple threads of the vamp’s complex, even contradictory nature.
One of the points of departure for Jeanne of the Dark was the 1916 black-and-white crime serial Les Vampires by director Louis Feuillade, filmed in the streets and interiors of World War I Paris. The film, initially banned by the French police for its supposed glorification of a band of criminals, became a hit and, later, something of a cult item, ensuring vampire-like immortality for its star Jeanne Roques (aka Musidora), emblematic in a black body suit and mascara-laden eyes in the role of Irma Vep (anagram-spotters take note), the cinema’s first screen vamp.
Musically, Jeanne of the Dark sucks blood from a range of innocent and not-so-innocent victims. The line-up of Bakin Zub (electric violin, electric guitar/bass guitar, synthesizer/electronics and percussion) resembles a rock band more than a contemporary music ensemble; the virtuosic and fully-notated score flits over and between the worlds of Heavy Metal and Goth, the easy-listening schmooze of porn soundtracks, the sharp edges of present-day electronica, and much else. The result is a haunting and multi-layered world that is both entertaining and provocative: as with the vamp herself, we find ourselves questioning if it’s OK to be seduced by its charms. But perhaps we should relax: during the time we spend in the company of Jeanne of the Dark, seduction is the only game in town.
Barbara Lüneburg – electric violin
Michael Blank – electric guitar, fretless bass
Fedor Teunisse – percussion, drum set, pads
Marko Ciciliani – electronics, keyboards, table-top bass