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Les Sentiers Conflictuels & Andrew King - 1888

This is a sinister release. The ominous piano chords and tolling bells that open 1888 act as a portent of doom, as horse carriages trundle past, and footsteps echo across cobbled streets. Between August and November 1888 a spate of sexually motivated killings in the Whitechapel area of London ravaged the city. The perpetrator was responsible for the brutal slaying of at least 4, and possibly more, local prostitutes. The savagery of the killings were unprecedented for the period: the victims had their throats slit, and in many cases were ritually disembowelled. The murders were the work of Jack the Ripper, one of the most notorious murderers in the history of serial killing, and now a celebrated (if that's the right word) part of East End mythology.

1888 is the work of the French outfit Les Sentiers Conflictuels and Andrew King, the English folk singer revered for his take on traditional song (often abetted by members of the industrial trio KnifeLadder). While Les Sentiers Conflictuels recreate the atmosphere of old London, Andrew King enacts the letters attributed to Jack the Ripper that were sent to the police and members of the local press. It's a thoroughly effective and absorbing release. Les Sentiers Conflictuels do a fine job in evoking the cobbled streets and dim-lit alleys of London's East End where Jack the Ripper hawked the streets, soliciting his victims. Andrew King is perfectly cast as the perpetrator. His recitations are delightful, as he mocks and teases the police in their futile attempts to catch him. King's voice is electronically treated at times sounding a cross between Whitehouse's William Bennett and Gary Oldman in Francis Ford Copolla's Dracula.

Les Sentiers Conflictuels display a solid grasp of tension and atmosphere. The risible presence of Jack the Ripper can be felt amidst the murky haze of the squalid East End. Ghostlike voices and laughter waft in from the streets, carnival music flows in from the public houses, and in the distance the shrill tones of a policeman's whistle pierces the night. The music itself is thoroughly restrained, a series of dark elongated drones, dark orchestral stylings with a creepy undertow.

The artwork is stunning too, recreating the letters and press from the time, with grey representations of the East End streets. Les Sentiers Conflictuels make it clear that they place no credence on the validity of the letters. It doesn't matter as 1888 is so richly evocative it acts as a portal to the late 19th century. I imagine this would be very effective as background listening whilst reading Alan Moore's From Hell, or any other Jack the Ripper title for that matter. It's an interesting take on atmospheric dark ambient and worth tracking down if the subject matter interests you. Scary stuff indeed. For more information go to