We first wrote about Sarah Goldfarb’s Red Wedding project back in September, describing how it managed to combine “elements as diverse as bedroom pop, jangle pop and disco.” With pop sensibilities granted extra weight by a heavy beat and haunting cello, the sound is the perfect vehicle for Goldfarb’s smart and searching writing, leading to songs full of atmosphere and thematic depth (as the single ‘Lucy’s Song’ attests).
Today, we’re really please to be able to share the debut Red Wedding record, a self-titled EP that boasts a diverse array of influences. Owing a debt to the DIY pop of Cleaners From Venus and edgy New Wave of Marianne Faithfull, as well as Stereolab, Charli XCX and the soundtracks of Piero Umiliani and Ennio Morricone, the release is cool but never cold, and atmospheric beyond its often minimalistic sound.
The record was mostly conceived while Goldfarb worked at a cinema. The tedium of the role was offset by the unique access to films it provided, something which had a tangible influence on the sound of the album. Not only do the scores of Umiliani and Morricone shape the Red Wedding aesthetic, but the very act of being around movies so often has a more pervasive influence on the perspective of the writing. “Rather than directly expressing my feelings in my lyrics,” Goldfarb explains, “I would often use the films I viewed as a lens through which to view my life. The refuge I sought in songwriting seamlessly overlapped with the escapism I found in films.”
Opener ‘Christmas Eve’ sets the tone, a slow and shimmering retro pop instrumental that heralds the Red Wedding style, before ‘Stripes’ introduces Goldfarb’s vocals that sound at once bored and defiant. Here is where Faithfull’s influence becomes apparent, the plain spoken and barely interested style feeling radically confrontational. Take ‘Bones’ as an example, the verses’ mumbled simplicity lending an intimate vibe, as though we are within Goldfarb’s head, privy not just to her poetic thoughts but the anxious, repetitive ones too. “Don’t be angry with me again,” she asks, “please don’t be angry with me again,” though the flat delivery makes it seem less like pleading with the other person, and more her own private mantra, a prayer to change reality before it comes to pass.
The tone harks back to the filmic inspiration, emotions present but detached, seen but not felt, somehow secondary. As such, the songs feel like reactions to emotions rather than emotions themselves, as though the drama and disappointment of Goldfarb’s life are projected onto a big screen and we’re next to her, watching her reaction. ‘Bugsy’ is a good example of this, the scene clearly evocative but lacking immediacy, fierce emotion transformed into a wistful longing in retrospective examination.
The track also shows Red Wedding’s inventive writing style. A classically trained cellist, Goldfarb possesses no formal training in guitar, and many of the songs resulted from this lack of rule and preconception. “My inexperience with the instrument created new songwriting possibilities for me,” Goldfarb explains. “Without a frame of reference, I would find random chords that I loved and work around them.”
Invention marks the lyrics too, with some interesting experimentation with perspective and preconceived ideas. As we wrote in our preview, ‘Lucy’s Song’ is a re-imagining of Bram Stoker’s Dracula from the point of view of the peripheral woman, centring her experience to explore new directions. “[The song] offers a revised narrative in which Lucy is granted more autonomy, challenging her victim status and lifting her character from object to subject,” we wrote. “Which is to say, Lucy is granted an awareness that is absent from Stoker’s telling, the changes to her body not some all-powerful force but a new dimension in her persona, and one which she can confront and grapple with like all personal changes.”
The idea marks the Red Wedding sound, and brings an added dimension to the influence of film. There is a cool detachment, yes, but the move is not some attempt to belittle or escape one’s own experience. Rather, Goldfarb uses the clarity offered by distance to get a better handle on things, circumventing personal hang-ups and neuroses, and also the stereotypes of our society. Which is to say, removing oneself not to become some passive viewer, but rather to increase understanding and autonomy.
Red Wedding is out now and available via the Red Wedding Bandcamp page.