I finally got around to picking up the fifth long player from the Richard Fearless helmed project last Thursday. Despite the seven year hiatus, I was very excited to hear what treats lay in store for me. I suppose that was, mostly, due to the lead off single I now know is called Your Loft My Acid. Which is an outstanding slice of dance music that sounds futuristic, yet retro at the same time.
The album opens, though, with a very atmospheric piece of music, called Silver Time Machine. Featuring half murmured vocals by Fearless himself regarding the titular Silver Time Machine, the track builds and builds without really going anywhere. But what it does do is create a feeling that an explosion may be imminent.
Led into by, of all things, a banjo the explosion comes on the second track, Black Hole.
“Like a black hole, you stole my soul… I was waiting for you”
This track is really just the second half of STM. A bit like Leather and Girls from Scorpio Rising, but in reverse. It’s a bit of a rarity is Black Hole, in that it is very clearly a guitar led track. And this, for me marks the most obvious point of departure from The Contino Sessions, or Scorpio Rising. Compared to Scorpio, which features guitar on 9 out of its 10 tracks, the axe is largely absent here and features on only 3 of 10 tracks. For me, the dominance of the synthesizer on this album gives Death In Vegas a totally fresh and cohesive sound.
The other thing that really helps the album is the total absence of “stunt” casting. And I say that with total love for the contributions of Iggy Pop, Bobby Gillespie, Paul Weller, Liam Gallagher (yes, even him), Dot Allison and, particularly, Nicola Kuperus on Hands Around My Throat. Here, aided only by Travis Caine on the final track Savage Love and, magnificently, Katie Stelmanis, the dominant voice belongs to Fearless himself. And it makes you wonder why he has only just taken this approach, is it because he is only now in sole control of DiV?
Coum and Witchdance are brilliant examples of the power of the synthesizer. With its menacing riff, Coum could easily feature in some horror movie about some stalker. Or Scarface. Which, just to be clear about it, is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Witchdance, featuring Stelmanis singing about I know not what apart from being able to “feel your pain”, sounds amazing. And, a bit like Depeche Mode’s Pimpf, builds around the same sequence of notes until you’re surrounded by a synth wall of sound.
Scissors, with its early 90s club sounds, brings things down a notch after that high, though Fearless sings about wanting to “get high tonight”. Probably deliberately, who knows? And then Drone Reich restates Fearless’ love for Krautrock, as if the title wasn’t enough of a giveaway, with an intro that could easily have come from a Neu! Album. It’s a mellow affair and leads into penultimate track, Lightning Bolt. Which begins in a similarly languid fashion, before a bass guitar begins to propel proceedings with a bit more urgency. And if I had to sum what makes this album great up with just one word, well, I’d probably ask for a couple more words, but the urgency on display within the ten tracks here mark a very welcome change. Lightning Bolt also marks a bit of a return to the skankiness not heard since 1996’s Dead Elvis album.
Just when you think the album closer, Savage Love is going to fade quietly away, a guitar arrives to drive the album home with a bit of ferocity. It works well as an album closer, and I think it works especially well as the guitar has been, as mentioned above, so absent previously.
My overall impression of this album, in case you hadn’t gathered, is overwhelmingly positive. I think I mentioned in a previous blog that I kind of shrugged my shoulders when I heard about a new album from Death In Vegas, and I suspect I won’t have been the only one. But, for me, this album is an absolute corker, I would go so far as to say I think it is the best album that Fearless and friends have produced, it’s certainly one of the best albums I have heard this year. This is dance music that I would happily go and dance to, if I still danced. Or, more accurately, staggered around in some semblance of rhythmic motion. I can think of no higher praise than that. So, welcome back Mr Fearless.
I will have a Roots Manuva album review up, once I’ve had a chance to listen to it all the way through in one sitting, but my first impressions are that 4everevolution is that wonderful thing, “a return to form”. There is also the small matter of Metronomy (with Jo and the other Jimmy in my life) at the Royal Albert Hall tonight. Which I’m rather looking forward to.