Death and Vanilla - Vampyr

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:8 Release Date:2017-05-19

Everything about this album is a bit weird. Of course, that’s a pun. But only partly. It starts with the name of this Swedish duo, but then, they weren’t a duo for this album. Then it is the name of the album, Vampyr, which isn’t exactly a title these guys just came up with but a name of a German silent horror movie from 1932 for which this is actually the score Death and Vanilla came up with. And then there is the music and the way it was played (should I use the word executed in this context?), produced and originally published, for the band to finally come up with this deluxe double vinyl edition. But let’s start at the top.

I haven’t had the chance to see Carl Theodor Dryer’s Vampyr yet, but judging by this “score”, I definitely should. And judging by what Death and Vanilla have come up with, I should definitely be scared. To record this, the original duo brought extra help, so they turned into a quintet - analog moogs, vibes, surf guitars, flutes, what not. To get into the mood the guys kept on watching the film for five weeks, playing along and mainly improvising, and by that I mean, you can hear both the improvisation elements, but also the tightness in playing that has developed as they went along. To get further into the mood, the whole set of rehearsals was held at a cemetery. Finally, a few years back they did a live recording on a Halloween night (when else?), and put it out on blood red cassettes in an edition of 150 copies. Now the whole thing is preserved for (a greater?) posterity. Should it have been?

Oh, yes. This loose connection between rehearsed and improvisational, the use of analog and some would say antiquated tube equipment give the music an additional touch that can both, transport you back to the 1932 date of the movie, but also keep you firmly modern. You get to feel this constant exchange between shadow and light (as I get it, the film theme is a quiet village where people constantly go missing), and as far as the music goes, the light passages can just lull you before those shadows swallow you up. What is also impressive is how further listens to this ‘soundtrack’ uncover new layers of sound and simply beg you to go and seek a copy of the film and play these two together. I’ve no doubt I’ll be both scared and impressed.

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