VIDEO PREMIERE: Charming Disaster Recount Historical Tragedy with Gothic Americana Tune “Radium Girls”

Brooklyn-based musical duo Charming Disaster’s upcoming album, Our Lady of Radium, represents a departure from the occult themes the goth-folk duo have become known for on their past releases. On the new album, Charming Disaster’s Ellia Bisker and Jeff Morris apply their playfully dark artistic sensibility to the life and discoveries of pioneering scientist Marie Curie, as well as the tragic story of the “Radium Girls” and other consequences of Curie’s work. Our Lady of Radium will be released March 4th on CD, 12-inch vinyl LP and via download, simultaneously with a limited-edition lyrics and art book that includes Charming Disaster’s research notes and original illustrations by artist Susan Saas.

Madame Curie, who was awarded two Nobel Prizes for her groundbreaking work in physics and chemistry, is an ongoing source of popular fascination, as evidenced by recent streaming series and films like Radioactive, but Charming Disaster’s concept album is the first of its kind. Our Lady of Radium includes nine songs exploring moments from Curie’s life and research: the ancient folklore of the mountains where radioactive ores were mined; the romance of equals between Marie and Pierre; the famous spirit medium whose séances they attended; Marie’s grief following Pierre’s tragic death; the physical characteristics of radium itself; and the personal scandal that almost destroyed her. The album also depicts the tragedy of the “Radium Girls,” who were poisoned in the course of their employment, painting watch dials with radium-based paint. In addition, Our Lady of Radium deals with duels, alchemy, dwarves, romance, Egyptian mythology, radioactive decay chains, and other secret histories.

This project began in 2017, when Bisker and Morris were awarded an artist residency by Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology in Bellaire, MI. The duo undertook extensive reading and research into Curie and her work and wrote a cycle of nine interwoven songs telling fragments Curie’s story. The songs then lay dormant while the band toured extensively and recorded another album (2019’s SPELLS + RITUALS).

In early 2020, Charming Disaster were preparing to record their next studio album when the pandemic hit and put those plans on hold. Unable to record in the studio with a backing band, the duo decided to try a new approach, recording every instrument themselves at Ellia’s parents’ home, which was sitting vacant just outside NYC. Working
with just two microphones, the pair tracked ukuleles, guitars, vocals, glockenspiel, bass, pots and pans, breath sounds, a drum kit borrowed from Jeff’s brother, and the piano Ellia used to practice on as a child. They let the sounds of the house contribute too: the natural reverb of a long hallway, a ticking clock that became a percussion element, whistling that echoed in a tiled shower. The results are an extraordinary suite of songs that are haunted by the moments and characters they capture.

Charming Disaster was formed by Bisker and Morris in 2012, inspired by the gothic humor of Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, the murder ballads of the Americana tradition, and the dramatic flair of the cabaret. Together the duo write songs that tell stories, using two voices to explore dark narratives and characters with a playfully macabre sensibility.

Today Glide is excited to offer an exclusive premiere of the extra creepy video for “Radium Girls,” one of the standout tracks on the new album. Singing in haunting harmonies that with a distinctive style of gothic Americana that brings to mind The Handsome Family, Ellia Bisker and Jeff Morris take us on a journey back in time to an eerie moment in history. There is a sweeping poignancy to the way they sing this lyrical tale, and the beautiful tragic tone of the song is brought to life by the delightfully frightening stop motion animation video depicting an interpretation of the events that transpired.

Ellia Bisker and Jeff Morris describe the inspiration behind the song and video:

“When we learned about the Radium Girls, the tragedy and horror of their story captured our imagination — these young women got what seemed like great jobs, and then they were poisoned by their work, painting watch dials with radium-based paint. But they weren’t just victims, they were heroes — the class action suit they won would protect future workers for decades to come, although none of them survived to benefit from it. The animation that artist Omer Gal created for the song we wrote in their honor is both unsettling and moving — we think it feels haunted by the spirits of the Radium Girls.”

WATCH:

Photo credit: Adrian Buckmaster

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