Unforgotten Rhymes – The Psyche Tribute Album

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Psyche were formed in Edmonton, Canada, in 1982. The same city has been home to legendary Beat poet, Brion Gysin, as well as Kurtis Mantronik, so there must be something blowing in from the nearby natural gas fields that spurs off-beat creatives. Of course, it should be noted that they all had to leave to fully realise their visions: Gysin went to Morocco by way of France to conceive the cut-up technique; Mantronik headed for New York City to kick-start electro and hip-hop; and Psyche eventually settled on Germany’s Baltic coast to create influential dark wave music.

The original incarnation of Psyche teamed up brothers Darrin and Stephen Huss, with Dwayne Goettel (Skinny Puppy) joining them for live shows. Their first album, Insomnia Theatre, was a self-released collection of electronic songs inspired by horror movies and the performance art antics of Fad Gadget. The combination distinguished the young band from contemporaries like Moev and Images in Vogue, with whom they nevertheless felt an affinity, and opened doors in Europe. A deal with the New Rose label and shows on the continent showed the way. With Skinny Puppy scratching their way out of membranes to claim the Canadian horror electro crown, Psyche moved to Europe, where music was appreciated more than pure spectacle.

In the years since then, Psyche’s line-up has evolved around the core of singer Darrin Huss. With a voice as big as Shirley Bassey’s, Huss is one of the best-known and respected fixtures on the dark wave scene. With thirty years of recordings behind him, counting from Insomnia Theatre, Huss has an unrivalled back-catalogue of alternative dancefloor hits to choose from in shows, and his keyboard players have long had to keep up with spontaneous changes to his set-list. Audience favourites, like “Unveiling the Secret,” “The Saint Became a Lush” and “Sanctuary,” are staples of a Psyche show, but they can be joined by “The Crawler” at a moment’s notice.

In the selection of songs for a Psyche tribute album, therefore, it is interesting to see both classic audience shout-outs and more obscure treasures being covered reverentially by fans and friends of the band. Unforgotten Rhymes collects no less than twenty-three songs reinterpreted and recorded by bands like Parralox, The Invincible Limit, Leaether Strip and Technomancer. The overall standard is very high, as it should be given the quality of the raw material, so picking highlights is difficult. In the Nine Circles version of “15 Minutes,” it is evident how well Huss works with both words and melodies, while the elegance of Parralox’s take on “The Sundial” emphasizes the fusion of lightness and darkness that makes Psyche’s songs sit so well on the knife-edge that is romance.

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