Miranda Sex Garden Carnival of Souls

Miranda Sex Garden return after a hiatus with an impressive and varied new album, expanding their musical horizons while not completely abandoning their established gothic, industrial and rock roots. The group's music is moody, intense and driven, presented in broad strokes with propulsive, pounding drums, passionate female vocals, deep bass lines and chiming guitars (occasionally reminiscent of Siouxsie and the Banshees), filled out with an eclectic mix of instrumentation (keyboards, flute, violin, horns and more). The centrepiece of the album is the dramatic "Tonight," a stunning, wide-screen masterpiece of soundtrack-inspired torch songs, complete with sleazy, late-night sax, muted trumpet, soaring strings and breathy, soulful vocals. Portishead would be impressed. Elsewhere, between dreamy, haunted carousel rides on the swirling "Sleeping Beauty" and "Without Trace," and the post-shoe-gazer fuzzy rock of "Close to the Sky," MSG offer their spirited take of lounge-jazz classic "Caravan," a lively and seductive arrangement that replaces the standard schmaltz with an exotic sense of danger. Carnival of Souls is the sound of a group reaching new creative heights, and here's hoping that it gets heard. (Cleopatra)