FALL, 2004 / ISSUE 65
electro-acoustic art rock with new age space-fusion ambience. Verdun is the brainchild
of Washington, D.C.-based guitarist/keyboardist Neal Barnard as a release for
his majestic soundscapes.
A key feature to his composition style is integration
of contrasting counterparts to work together. To reach this goal, Verdun is composed
of two female vocalists - Martha Roebuck and Ngoc Hoang - whose heavenly voices
are used as soft instruments which he blends against the harshness and aggressiveness
of his guitar and keyboard work coupled with the demands of drummer Mike Stetina.
The band's signature song, "Dream of a Black Horse,"
draws on an ancient Vietnamese folk song and melody. An interpretation of Tammy
Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" flows in a German monotonistic club mix
form. Lyrics flow from English to Vietnamese in an angelic, operatic fashion more
musical in nature than lyrically valid.
Barnard's approach to "Purple
Haze" is to slow the song down in an effort to better define the
imagery Hendrix created.
"I did not want to just redo 'Purple
Haze' or convert it to strings, accordion, tubas, or whatever, as you
hear so often," he says. "I kept imagining the song as something else,
very slow and dramatic, and I kept hearing it in 7/4 time. And in contrast to
a heavy musical undercurrent, we used a very quiet and delicate female vocal.
So while all the original aspects of the song are there, it became a totally different
In an interview with New Age Reporter Jamie Bonk, when
asked about the challenge of covering "Purple Haze," Barnard
says, "sometimes, when you change a song's tempo, it becomes something entirely
different. I kept hearing it very, very slow - letting the guitar really linger
and bringing out the drums." He goes on, noting in Jimi's original version,
"the solo was like an oration where he really had something to say, but he
sped through so quickly that you couldn't concentrate. So, for better or worse,
we used a very slow beat with lots of drums and shunted it into 7/4 time. The
guitar part is original, note-for-note, except very slow."
emphasizes, "Jimi's music has always been important to me. He had such power
and cleverness, and the day he died, it was a terrible tragedy. But I never would
have presumed to try to copy his style. Very few people could attempt it (with
some brilliant exceptions, such as Stevie Ray Vaughn's 'Voodoo Chile')."
results are very ethereal, almost commanding the listener to study the music more
than listen to it. Some have said Barnard has created another new music genre.
Not being able to pigeonhole the music of Verdun, that may be an accurate statement.