Death In Vegas

Death In Vegas

Death In Vegas

Satan’s Circus


Tim Holmes and Richard Fearless, the duo behind Death in Vegas, have straddled the fencepost of music culture since their 1997 debut Dead Elvis. Their ambiguous blend of electro-dub-rock-soul allowed them to leap over the hurdles of hype, and their work has steadily improved with each single. While their roots allegedly rest in clubland, DIV’s aggro impulse on classic tracks like “Aisha” (featuring Iggy Pop) and the shoegazer swirl of “Girls” (off the Lost in Translation soundtrack) contradicted such a DJ past.

While techno-based groups like Two Lone Swordsmen are now aping DIV’s edgy stylings, Holmes and Fearless are pulling their own 180 with Satan’s Circus. It’s an unabashed love letter to their Krautrock influences, and essentially a time capsule from an era nearly three decades past. The opening “Ein Fur Die Damen” is flooded with synth bleeps and bloops that pay homage to the early machinist noodlings of Kraftwerk, with a claptrap rhythm section in tow. The more intriguing follow-up, “Zugaga,” is practically transplanted from said group’s Trans-Europe Express with touches of the eerie John Carpenter scores from the early ’80s. The group doesn’t make the easy transition into its more avant-garde moments, when sound explodes into a hundred fractals on the ambient “Heil Xanax” or on the wheezing dub of “Black Lead.” Both tracks are lengthy diversions from the album’s best moments, like the crystalline tech of “”Reigen” and the brooding strums of “Anita Barber.”

At times, there is a grinding jam band ethos that pervades Circus, with tracks like “Head” invoking the spirits of Can and current groups like Kreidler and Stereolab. But the analogue synth interpretations stand out here. Though they definitely could’ve shaved each track by at least two minutes, Holmes and Fearless have taken a welcome detour with their latest. The group has avoided guest vocals for the most part; just samples, vintage gear, sonic wankery and a whole lot of nostalgia are the stars of this circus. For those turned off by this experimental “tribute,” the band has graciously included a bonus live disc from 2002 for you to indulge in their old-school, wall-of-sound past.

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