Across the last couple of months this album, the second by Dunedin’s Death And The Maiden has nagged (for) my attention; it’s been played near-relentlessly in the car-stereo, accompanying me on all sorts of journeys. It’s fit almost every mood. And when it hasn’t quite suited, if that’s actually ever been the case, it’s become its own form of transportation – taking me to a place I’d prefer to be.
Yes, you can line it up with all sorts of great music from the 1980s, synth-pop meets brooding-but-bright goth territory – mention The Cure and The Cocteau Twins for starters, think Gary Numan’s darker textures, and if there needed to be another step in the development of Joy Division to New Order you could almost imagine some of the work on this album from this band – created decades after in a location miles from the source – as fitting the shape near-perfectly.
But I’ve thought too of Warpaint – and how some of the music here (Ooh Baby In the Chorus, River Underground, Duchess in particular) would (also) find a home somewhere near what that band is doing. Yes, and much as I really love Warpaint, there’s an element of ‘gimmick’ there. There’s nothing like that here.
This, like the xx at their best (which was really only half of one album, if we’re honest) makes fresh memories associated with a sound from the past, draws from previous sounds to make new moments.
Opening with the lush, immersive title track, Death And The Maiden here do what we want most from music: They create A World. You had never previously dreamed this up and yet now you can’t imagine your world without this soundtrack, you feel you’re walking in an actual place – a sonic that transcends merely notes on a page or songs captured for a recording.
There are psychedelic – or is it even psilocybin? – hues to this music (Shadows, Hourglass) and there are broad and sharp pop instincts (Speed of Sound) and often you’ll find them in the same song. Its anthemic and yet there’s a darkness and paranoia (befitting both the band and album name), a lurching aspect, a creep, a wistfulness that crawls across these songs; is scrawled across them.
It’s one of the best releases of the year. Easy. In a perfect world – and yes we’ve maybe never lived further from that – this would top many Best of The Year lists. But the band, the label and the fans will know the truth at any rate. This is a gem. One of those records that lives, pulses, breathes, will evolve with time – will re-energise those that hear it when they come to it; will live on for many years to come. A masterpiece of mood, perfectly realised, compiled, created.
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