The first track on the newest Death in Vegas album, appropriately titled “Dirge,” certainly attempts to provide the listener, grown increasingly weary of the generally boring and self-obsessed genre known collectively as “trip-hop,” with a new spin on a tired old trick.
“Dirge,” and most of what’s to come on The Contino Sessions, is self-consciously murky and disembodied rock and roll, funereal music for a night spent out with the living dead. The tempos are generally slow, the synths are spooky and the guitars slip in and out, mostly just providing decoration for the otherwise spare, slithering tracks. To call The Contino Sessions ominous sounding is perhaps overly dramatic, yet what producers Richard Fearless and Tim Holmes have crafted here is an opaque and minimalist work, heavy on atmosphere and light on emotion or depth.
It works quite well at times, like on the Iggy Pop-narrated “Aisha,” which finds the diabolical Iggy (how old is this guy anyway?) grumbling to his girl, “Aisha, we’ve only just met/ I think you should know, I’m a murderer…” The track bumps along quite nicely, trip-hop as conceived by Vincent Price.
It’s difficult, however, to convincingly base an entire album on this one, twisted premise. Sure, Death in Vegas have staked out their niche with considerable style, but much of this music leaves me wondering if they haven’t in reality just backed themselves into a corner, barely even attempting to transcend this one, quite basic idea. Their forays into more traditional fare, in the form of a guest appearance by Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream, sound ill-fitting and half-assed. There might be room for this album at the margins of the goth scene, if you find that kind of thing exciting, although if there is a greater point to The Contino Sessions, it’s that there’s very little life here.