Private Records - Two Albums That Almost Didn't Happen [PvRc21]
14 Jan, 2013
Tonight's two bands are rather reclusive folk. In spite of their introverted natures, however, they've both garnered some serious critical attention lately.
Nosferatu D2: Folks, if you haven't checked out Audio Antihero by now, you're missing out on a modern phenomenon. Fortunately, label owner Jamie is promoting a huge sale this January on just about every release in his catalogue - including a package deal on AAH's two most valued LPs, Nosteratu D2's We're Gonna Walk Around This City With Our Headphones On To Block Out The Noise (phew) and Benjamin Shaw's There's Always Hope, There's Always Cabernet, with one random EP thrown in for good measure (and, fingers crossed, another badge). Having sampled both artists' work via the charity singles, I bit the bullet and clenched the deal for myself, which comes to $20 for us Americans due to shipping. Fortunately, I wouldn't have to wait two weeks to hear Nosferatu D2 - the purchase came with an immediate download of We're Gonna Walk.
A bit of background about this band - Nosferatu D2 came together in south London and recorded this single album in 2008 before disbanding. But Jamie, an enthusiastic fan from the same hometown, founded his own music label solely to release that single album a year later. The result was, as far as underground sensations go, a smash hit. (For more on Nosferatu D2 and the rise of Audio Antihero, check out this spot from TheWorld.org.)
When I first attempted to listen in on We're Gonna Walk, I couldn't take it. Mind, I had a bit of a headache at the time, but "Broken Tamagotchi", the opener, wasn't merely loud - it was tense, pounding, urgently bitter. Too overwhelming for a chick under the weather. I had to shelf it for a later date.
Later, in better health, I returned to We're Gonna Walk. That overbearing weight that shut me down before doesn't fade away - sorrow, weariness, and outright anger permeate the album. But the musicianship is incredibly tight: the drummer, in particular, pounds the kick with a motor-driven right foot, and commands each song with his own nimble improvs. Basslines are thick, pulsing, and ominous, while the guitar strums angular chords that splinter and stutter.
And, my God, Ben Parker. The vocals leap from skeptic mumbles into tortured cries and desperate ravings, often at neck-breaking speed. (Case in point - "Colonel Parker", a track about the singer's own insecurities about playing the frontman.) This, and his introverted, self-deprecating lyrics, invoke an omnipresent bleakness that feels too visceral to be contrived.
Bottom line: if you're into the alternative scene at all, then you can't miss this album. Stream and buy it here.
Drop Out Venus: A reclusive trio of "rocked and rolled kids" (so their bio claims) that recently gathered the courage to release their secretive recordings. Intimacy is certainly central to their debut, Be Brave - but don't get too cozy with those hazy, harmonious female vocals. There's always something vicious underneath.
That wicked power is most present on "The Correct Moment of Desperation", where heavy-handed guitars roar and wail. But Drop Out Venus is most compelling at being sinister - especially on the standout track, "Marry Me". Over an accordion drone, a low piano line repeats a simple tune, while a higher line hits some nerve-wracking notes. Above all, the girls chant a foreboding hymn that would make any groom's blood run cold.
Plenty of highlights on this album, though - like the minimal and woozy dirge "Vampire", in which a world-weary vampire begs to die; or "Lady Lazarus", an aptly tense tribute to Sylvia Plath's poem on suicide. The closer, "Piano Improvisation Number 2", is the most sparse (and haunting) track on the album, with little more than that meandering piano and the girls' droning vocals. Truly hypnotic, really - especially since that piano sounds ancient...
You can stream and order Be Brave on Drop Out Venus's bandcamp site, or you could check it out on Spotify. They've also been featured quite frequently on Dandelion Radio - no doubt that many DJs there will keeping tabs on their next album, too.