Death And Vanilla – reissues

With last year’s well-promoted To Where The Wild Things Are LP and California Owl EP having drawn Malmö’s Death And Vanilla out of the shadows, it makes fan-friendly archival sense for Fire Records to also bring the bulk of the group’s earlier catalogue back into print under the same new roof – after previous limited-edition outings on Hands In The Dark, Kalligrammofon and The Great Pop Supplement. And here it nearly all is, with the notable exception of 2013’s outré Vampyr soundtrack.

Death And Vanilla - self-titled EP

Death And Vanilla – self-titled EP

2010’s eponymous EP is arguably the most rounded and value for money pick of this three-part reissue set.  Seamlessly bolstered by three contemporaneous bonus tracks also found on Hands In The Dark’s 2014 12”-only edition, the seven-track suite acts a gorgeous introductory salvo – being mysterious, melodic and mesmeric.  Hence, the aptly-anointed “Ghosts In The Machine” majestically merges low-end twangs with early-Broadcast airiness; the pulsing percussive “Godspeed” funnels Steve Reich, Suicide and Laurie Anderson into a strangely gentile whole; the throbbing “Run Rabbit Run” dovetails Stereolab-shaped synth buzzing into Tortoise-like bass-led rubbery rhythms; “The Colour Of Space” swims in quasi-futuristic filmic atmospherics, “Ascend And Descend” percolates space-jazz with ‘70s Doctor Who scores; “The Dödens Vaniljsås Theme” drifts into serene yet spooky Delia Derbyshire-indebted wordlessness; and the twinkling “Between Circles” glows with a plaintive Nordic radiance.

Death And Vanilla - self-titled album

Death And Vanilla – self-titled album

In comparison, 2012’s self-titled debut album feels less distinct and somewhat less gripping.  Mining deeper into hauntological soundscapes with more ambient arrangements and Marleen Nilsson’s fog-obscured tones pushed even further back into the mix, the record feels more distant and rootless.  This is not to say that it is without merit of course.  “Cul-De-Sac” delicately extends upon the twangs and twinkling of the preceding EP; “Somnambulists” successfully imagines Ambient-era Eno with the addition of a female vocal foil; the fuzzy folk-noire fragility of “From Elsewhere” brings a less-clouded side of the group’s sound to the fore; and “Library Goblin” delivers some hypnotic sci-fi burbling and squelching into the mix.

Death And Vanilla - "From Above" b/w "Lux"

Death And Vanilla – “From Above” b/w “Lux”

Pulling subtly but substantially back from the ethereality of the first album proper, 2013’s reissued two-track 7” is a sublime transitional as well as stand-alone affair.  Richly-refined recording-wise and dripping in warm melodicism, it’s no wonder that this was previously one of the best-selling singles for The Great Pop Supplement.  With its soaring retro-futuristic layers, dainty-to-swooping ebb ‘n’ flow and Nilsson’s more forthright vocal/lyrical role, A-side “From Above” is still one of Death And Vanilla’s finest moments to date.  Flipside “Lux” – with its baroque-framed elegance and Nilsson’s sultry whisper – isn’t far behind in being essential either.

Clearly then, for those belatedly-converted to the cult of Death And Vanilla, there is still much to discover and explore ahead of another new album.  Looking-back with these three carefully curated reissues should serve you well as a whole.

Fire Records