Photographer: Jenny Cleveson.
Following their debut EP, which presented their sound in already perfected form, Death and Vanilla's self-titled first LP expanded upon and further explored aspects of that sound on its way to being a fantastic debut. Marleen Nilsson and Anders Hansson were obviously fans of bands like Stereolab and Broadcast, who melded space age pop, atmospheric soundtrack music, swirling psych pop, and beat-driven German experimentalism from the '70s into an endlessly tuneful and dreamy package. Like on their debut EP, the duo take that basic approach and make it even wispier and more dreamlike than any similar band who had come before them. Listening to Death and Vanilla in one sitting is like taking a half-hour long waking nap as you let the sounds wash over you while Nilsson's exceedingly gentle vocals comfort you, and the cascading synths, bells, guitars, and samples that bubble through every inch of the arrangements fill you with a kind of warm wonderment. There are no rough edges, no sudden shifts in dynamics, no guitar solos or expressions of abandon; instead, the album is precise and soothing from start to finish. Some of the songs stand out a little, like the shuffling "Somnambulists," which would have sounded perfect coming over a radio in the lobby of the Great Northern hotel, or the almost Plone-like "Library Goblin," if Plone had Trish Keenan's sister singing for them. Mostly though, they fit together like cloud formations on a beautifully overcast day, creating a tapestry of sonic death and melancholy feelings. Not since the heyday of the bands that so clearly inspire them has a band so successfully re-created the sound of that era. Clearly, Death and Vanilla would have fit in perfectly next to Mars Audiac Quintet or The Noise Made by People on a discerning music fan's shelf in the early 2000s, and it sounds even better in 2012. ~ Tim Sendra