Johnny Hollow, self-described “gothic chamber music for the 21st century”, had been one of those delightfully inescapable bands in Toronto, equally capable of headlining a show or opening for a special guest. Their appeal spreads beyond goth subculture and into steampunk fandom, belly dance, and just about anybody listening for something different and fresh, especially if you love piano and cello. The visual arts input of member Vincent Marcone (see also: My Pet Skeleton) contributed to a coherent aesthetic for the band’s album sleeves, t-shirts and brand. It has always been a complete art from top to bottom.
Then life found ways to keep some principal members occupied, as life typically does. Janine White invited a new life into the world with her husband Yale Holmberg. Kitty Thompson moved to Alberta; geography can pose a simple challenge in keeping a group together, though today’s communications technology compensates for that.
But Johnny Hollow never really left us, going the route of crowd funding to keep bringing us their music their way. That’s how the previous album A Collection of Creatures happened, and five years later, that’s how we get the April 21st release, an EP called The Old Gods of New Berlin. I believe the EP’s name is a cute hometown nod, and if you don’t know why, look up Wikipedia’s entry on Kitchener, Ontario. [Addendum: Vincent Marcone confirms this and adds that the full title also nods to the use of folklore as a lyrical theme.]
Track listing :
- I, Goblin
- The Wild Hunt
- Her Infinite Jest
- Nothing Can Stop Ileana
- My Lovely Jinn
The result is a cohesive EP with no fillers, no throwaways, no compromise with “middlemen” as their social media would put it. It’s a true Johnny Hollow release that earns its place with all their best known material. Because of the unique combination it is, with its industrial-type atmosphere and mixing, I’m not sure how else to place it or describe it.
I will say that the fifth track, “My Lovely Jinn”, lyrically stands out to me as a very real and direct song. It speaks to something familiar in Johnny Hollow’s lyrics, the selling of things to us by media and by commercial interests; in this case, the selling of ideas about what we’re supposed to want in life and what we’re supposed to pursue. It’s not a general song, though, but a highly personal one. I won’t spoil it further, just listen and you’ll understand.