Death In Vegas has undergone quite a transformation since the release of debut album “Dead Elvis” in 1997, both in terms of formation and sonic palette. What began as a genre melding band project featuring a panoply of high profile guests has become an outlet for Death In Vegas’ founder Richard Fearless to craft sparse electronica and dark, industrial techno, garnished with the vocals of Sasha Grey.
Death In Vegas’ current trajectory can be traced back to 2004’s “Satan’s Circus”, seemingly a reaction to the group’s accessible apogee “Scorpio Rising”, which featured Oasis’ Liam Gallagher. “Satan’s Circus” represented a sonic U-turn, the illustrious guests expunged in favour of Germanic instrumentals (and song titles). The resulting album was unfairly disparaged by some reviewers, with critics mired in what the album was not, rather than what it was.
"The influence of the recording environment imbues Transmission, with the droning soundscapes and stratums of field recordings of ‘Metal Box’ setting the tone for the austere album."
The backlash overlooked memorable tracks such as ‘Anita Berber’, a hypnotic fusion of layered melodies that was astutely utilised by James Holden in his At the Controls compilation. Seven years and a Fabriclive mix later, Death In Vegas returned with “Trans-Love Energies”, an album Fearless crafted without his erstwhile production partner Tim Holmes. Now, Fearless has again revived Death In Vegas, continuing to take the project in a new direction. Whereas “Trans-Love Energies” contained vestiges of the pop craft that pervaded early Death In Vegas, “Transmission” is devoid of percussion and guitars.
“Transmission” opens in uncompromising fashion with the eleven-minute ‘Metal Box’, a reference to the studio the album was partly recorded in that sits adjacent to a steel factory. The influence of the recording environment imbues Transmission, with the droning soundscapes and stratums of field recordings of ‘Metal Box’ setting the tone for the austere album.
‘Consequences of Love’ introduces listeners to Sasha Grey, the only vocalist to feature on Transmission. Grey’s commanding and yearning vocals atop stark techno is a potent cocktail for late night dancefloors, as evinced by the album’s title track and lead-off single ‘You Disco I Freak’, a primeval, techno cut that ought to garner plenty of play from DJs spinning in dark sweatboxes. ‘Arise’ is another pulsating, acid techno cut where Grey’s salacious delivery evokes Nina Kraviz.
"Transmission is a reminder of Richard Fearless’ dexterity as a producer and his ability to explore contrasting moods and influences from one album to the next."
While Grey features on Transmission’s high-octane moments, the album also comprises a number of more restrained, stripped-back, synth-crafted instrumentals. ‘Flak’ resonates through its simplicity and rawness, ‘Strom’ through its ghostly ambience. ‘Sequential Analogue Memory’ is an ode to the SAM-16 sequencer, with the medium very much the message. ‘Transwave’ is an ethereal ending to the album, subtle melodies percolating under radio recordings that dovetail with Transmission’s opening track, ‘Metal Box’.
After only releasing one Death In Vegas album over the past decade, Transmission is a reminder of Richard Fearless’ dexterity as a producer and his ability to explore contrasting moods and influences from one album to the next. Fans of Death In Vegas’ early output may find this album too static and repetitious, however anyone with a penchant for visceral techno and atmospheric electronica is likely to disagree fervently with such an appraisal. For an intense listening experience, Transmission certainly delivers.
Transmission is out now on Drone, order a copy from Kompakt.
1. Metal Box
2. Consequences of Love
4. Mind Control
6. Sequential Analog Memory
8. You Disco I Freak