Death and Vanilla - Are You a Dreamer? (Fire Records)
Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz
I’ve long admired the vintage dream pop conjured up by Malmo, Sweden’s talented trio, Death and Vanilla. Marleen Nilsson, Magnus Bodin and Anders Hansson are ‘dreamers, antiquarians, and music obsessed individuals’ whose music is redolent with mystery and intrigue. The group has scored several soundtracks, a process which helped influence the dreamlike euphoria offered up by added mellotron and electric guitar. They expanded their sound with bass and drums and the resulting tunes are longer, lusher, and more spellbinding.
‘A Flaw in the Iris’ is the opening single, and has the hushed melancholy of previous endeavors, reminding one of Thievery Corporation and Air. Marleen’s lovely voice seamlessly winds through the musical tapestry that shrouds this tune. Cool and beautiful! “Let’s Never Leave Here” is deceptively soothing. As you take in its calming melody, the lyric makes your ears perk up: Come, and stay, magic is here Inside, wanna dissolve in time, Looking through glass Divine, let's never leave here. It’s the perfect lyrical analogy to the dreamy escape of the accompanying music. There are jewel-like facets studding this song, much like seeing the outrageous green shades of spring after the depressing drab of winter.
“Mercier” is equally gorgeous and church-like, emerging from a quiet, sacred place to immerse you in its dreamlike but energetic swirls. The group has a firmer hold on strong melodies that stay with you rather than slipping out of your grasp. It definitely has all the earmarks of a follow-up single. Really terrific work! “Eye Bath” is trip hop at its best, laced with a lysergic overlay. Marleen’s elegant, chilled out voice meshes perfectly with the main melodic line. The strength and experience of their soundtrack work is reflected here. I also like the slightly exotic percussion floating in the backdrop. “The Hum” burbles along pleasantly, a perfectly named song that easily captures a listener’s fancy. Marleen murmurs behind her main vocals, and the effect is mesmerizing.
“Nothing is Real” is the real show piece on an already amazing record. It captures all the strongest elements in Death and Vanilla’s music: the dreamy, haunting essence that pervades a typical listener’s experience, Marleen’s sultry vocals, pretty snatches of keyboard, and the long ago feel evoked by the vintage instruments put into play. Wonderful and stunning all around! “Vespertine” was an early favorite of mine, awash with a childlike quality, infusing you in a sonic daydream you never want to leave.
Finally, “Wallpaper Pattern” is a multihued masterpiece, the miniature soundtrack to a movie not yet made. In summary, Death and Vanilla have evolved into one of the strongest purveyors of vintage dream pop and Kosmische that has graced my ears in the past decade. Are You a Dreamer? Is absolutely essential listening for all lovers of great dream pop.