There’s an enormous stack of electronic pop duos around. We get emailed a new one every week it seems, but few make the grade. You can take Eurythmics as the starting point and meander through various successful reincarnations ever since, but it’s an understatement to say that most miss the standards set by Lennox and Stewart some thirty years ago. So what is considered a good and bad standard? What is it that lifts something from just being that pretty fronting female vocalist and that (usually pretty ugly) silent guy and his computer/keyboard stood behind her, up to something that has the legs to last that bit longer? In today’s world, the computer can do so much that as long as you have a good female singer you can create almost anything, yet so many fall into the trap of cliches. Today’s recommendation meander through that same cliche minefield, but they successfully get through it with both legs in tact.
Welcome to the duo, Death Rattle. Firstly, we can congratulate them on selecting a brilliant name, but frankly – to paraphrase Shakespeare - a rose by any other name would still sound as sweet. We can confidently inform you that this duo are the real deal. They have received coverage from many serious corners of the online music press, including NME.com, Line Of Best Fit and The405, as well as several other music blogs in recent months, following the release of their debut EP, HE & I. This has lead to the buzzing Bristol label, Fear of Fiction, including them on their recent release, a limited edition run of 100 CDs, complete with screen printed artwork, which they delivered especially for the recent Record Store Day.
Death Rattle are the duo, Chris and Helen Hamilton, with the latter providing the kind of vocals that are equal parts warning and welcome. There’s a threat to their music throughout, but it’s the kind of danger that attracts as much as it cautions. Imagine for a moment if the Swedish duo, The Knife, had been busy having bastard children with some of your favourite artists. Hit in waiting, The Blows, sounds like the bastard child of The Knife and Austra, whereas the tunes, White Ropes or Do As You Please, sound like the offspring they’d had after a one night stand with Bat For Lashes. The tracks, The Dig and Fortress, have the kind of solitary introspection once found when Massive Attack were depressed. The list of comparisons is like an evening stroll through the dark woods of all the best ominous pop of the last 20 years.
This is serious stuff and should come with an over 18 age restriction, such is their towering, cinematic sound; children simply couldn’t handle this without it purveying their nightmares. They may well be just another boy/girl duo making brooding electronic pop music, but the scale of what they produce with a keyboard and computer is astonishing, elevated to the stratosphere by Helen’s arresting vocals. Their witchcraft is on a different level. They know exactly which ingredients to stir into their dark potions, with punchy beats introduced to lift the creeping mist and mantras that will hook you like a dependent addict. Few protagonists of this haunting pop music have enough range to break through the depression, but with Death Rattle you get atmosphere AND hooks. When you finally reach tracks such as The Fixer you even get the kind of energy normally associated with Sleigh Bells. The pitch black darkness has never been this packed with monsters before.
The latest single, White Rope arrived earlier this month and the second EP, Fortress, is due for release this week, via the Frontal Noize label. Throughout May they have selected tour dates around Europe, where we can imagine their sound being particularly embraced, before returning to play shows from the north to the south of England. If we can get them into our Great Escape showcase we will. You can download their tunes for free on their Soundcloud, which is both generous and will serve to help crank up their enormous hype. We suggest you head their next if you know what’s good for you, or should that be ‘bad for you’. Electronic duos may arrive as regularly as the midnight hour, but what this duo cleverly recognize is that the truly scary nightmares are also the most memorable. (MB)
DEATH RATTLE – THE BLOWS
DEATH RATTLE – THE DIG
DEATH RATTLE – DO AS YOU PLEASE