Release Date: 09.14.99
Record label: time bomb / concrete
by: bill aicher
Face it. We live in a world where electronic samples and beats have become part of our everyday music. This "poptronica" revolution has started to envelope our mainstream music industry. It seems most everything released these days is trying to sound "techno."
Behind these attempts at sounding hip are true electronic acts such as Fatboy Slim and the Chemical Brothers, whose increased popularity has made this electronic music chic. But then there is Death in Vegas, a band whose sound is not so easily referenced.
Electronica? Alternative rock? Trance? Trip hop? Just what the hell kind of music is Death in Vegas anyway?
Damn cool - this would be the simplest description. However, this doesn't explain much. Perhaps a better description would be "an aural barrage of psychedelic musings which can induce a trance-like state where nothing matters but ourselves and the musical world we are existing within." Or, perhaps you could take a listen to Death in Vegas's sophomore effort The Contino Sessions and experience it for yourself.
If you are at all familiar with DIV's first release Dead Elvis, your initial response may be one of surprise; the boys have come a long way since then. The new album, recorded in The Contino Rooms, London, marks a leap ahead for the band. Featuring guest vocals by Iggy Pop and Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie, DIV have released what may be one of the most innovative albums of the year.
"Dirge," the album's opener, greets us with a simple guitar chord progression coupled with a haunting, repetitive chorus of "la la la." An excellent choice for an opener, "Dirge" buildes from this simplicity to an all-out aural extravaganza including a driving bassline and a freaked out keyboard line. The rest of the album expands upon this style, each song a musical rollercoaster, building from simplicity to an intricate beauty.
This album is a superb example of what is possible through the incorporation of rock instrumentation and electronic technology - all without sounding like either. This is music you can just sit back and appreciate. There is no big deep meaning to it, there is no hidden message you have to interpret. It's beauty is inherent.
However, while this album is an artistic expression, it is not meant to be an overly uplifting one. Holmes and Fearless (DIV) are an interesting bunch, and their psychoses come through on this album. With lyrics like "[There are] eggs-bearing insects hatching in my mind" ("Soul Auctioneer") or the simple exclamation "What am I? I'm a murderer" (Iggy Pop on the dark rock track "Aisha"), this album's beauty lies in the complexity of the emotions it exhibits. The instrumentation, even when it is as simple as a church organ set to a simple melody, still extends a foreboding mood. This is an album one can get lost in, and that can be disturbingly wondrous.