The Red Chamber
Edogawa Rampo, The Red Chamber LP – Read by Laurence R. Harvey, score by Chris Bozzone
Random colour vinyl.
This title is a small pressing with less than 60 x standard copies to go around, so don’t sleep on this!
* Limited pressing on 150 gram vinyl
* Gatefold jacket packaging
* Includes liner notes by Leigh Blackmoore
* Newly commissioned art by Zakuro Aoyama
As one might guess from reading his pen name of Edogawa Rampo aloud, Japanese writer Tarō Hirai was greatly influenced by American writer Edgar Allen Poe. While perhaps known for his series of stories and novels featuring the “Boy Detectives Club,” it is his work within the realm of horror and the macabre which also deserves attention.
Interestingly, one can see his 1925 story, “The Red Chamber,” as being one which bridges the gap between detective stories and the macabre by the virtue of its intriguing conceit. Told in a format which recalls William Hope Hodgeson’s Carnaki stories, Rampo’s frame tale features a narrator introducing the setting in which the story will be told, of “seven grave men” who meet to exchange “blood-curdling horror stories.”
The story is then told by the newest member of the group, Tanaka, who confesses that “Nothing that I did – absolutely nothing – succeeded in pleasing my fancy,” and that he eventually decided on murder as a way to combat his ennui, and that “all my wickedness was the result of unbearable boredom.” Over the course of the tale, which twists and turns in ways one couldn’t possibly imagine, Tanaka reveals his desire to kill 100 people, with a telling as dispassionate regarding its victims as it is fiery regarding its murderer’s mindset.
Read here by Laurence R. Harvey, the telling of Edogawa Rampo’s “The Red Chamber” requires Harvey to be both an absolute madman when he is Tanaka, going from matter-of-fact explanations of how the tale-teller planned and executed his crimes to impassioned exclamations of why he had to plan and execute these crimes. The performance of this repeated switching back and forth is impressive, and made all the more so by the fact that never does Harvey once raise his voice.
It’s an eerie calm pervading the majority of “The Red Chamber,” and it’s only when we return to the closing and the original narrator takes over that the listener takes notice of just how mad things have become. The return of a sane and emotionally-affected voice only makes that which has come before feel all the more beyond the pale.