Music review: Death and Vanilla, To Where the Wild Things Are
Psychedelic dream-poppers present an experimental second album
The total and permanent cessation of all vital functions of an organism, and a byword for boring being surely among the last things a band ought to wish to title themselves after, immediate impressions of these psychedelic Swedes don’t bode too excellently. But Death and Vanilla derive their moniker from a Nick Cave lyric, apparently – from ‘Do You Love Me? (Part 2)’ to be specific – so we’ll give them a pass there.
Fans of trippy retro baroque-pop with a Krautrock twist will find a sea of lush, languid, droney experimentation in which to happily immerse themselves on the Malmö trio’s second set To Where The Wild Things Are, amid tracks recorded on one flea market bought microphone exclusively using organic instrumentation. Wheezy organ, wobbly vibraphone, mellotron, electric guitar, Moog synthesiser, samples from an old library record and the like are the furniture upon which singer Marleen Nilsson’s distortion and tremolo bathed Nancy-Sinatra-on-Valium vocals laze. Harpsichord samples led single ‘California Owls’ is truly marvellous – a climbing, chiming, breathlessly romantic thing, like The Velvet Underground playing The Left Banke. Pastoral jangle ‘Time Travel’ has a similar haunted beauty.
Much else struggles to match those tracks’ hazy promise, however, either by trying too hard to replicate Broadcast’s dissonant retro-futuristic psych-pop incantations (‘Necessary Distortions’), or by coming across like the soundtrack to an obscure and incredibly slow movie given a limited release only in the minds of three Scandinavians (‘Moogskogen’).
Ordinariness certainly wouldn’t be a criticism that sticks – in their unconventional song structures and rigorous dedication to their lo-fi, vintage gear-only modus operandi, Death and Vanilla make a discernible endeavour to walk their own path and avoid simple pastiche. It’d just be nice to hear more of the stirring emotional potency of ‘California Owls’, as opposed to the cold detachment of ‘Shadow and Shape’ and ‘Hidden Reverse’, which both feel like a kind of elaborate (vanilla) sonic wallpaper.
To Where The Wild Things Are is out on Mon 4 May on Fire Records.
Listen to track ‘Time Travel’ on Soundcloud.