While The Vampires' last venture The Vampires meet Lionel Loueke (earshift music, 2017) saw the Australian quartet collaborating with Beninese guitar virtuoso Lionel Loueke in a run of colorfully diverse tunes and extensive structures, their newest one finds them dialing things back to a simpler nature, yet equally expressive soundscapes.
One of the main things that manifests itself straight from the start is the powerfully upfront and modern production. Loud claps and compressed snare bumps, matched by continuous high-head hits that evoke similarities to minimal house music, are joined by strikingly straightforward basslines to the catchy melody of the pseudo-titletrack "Don Pacifico." To complete the picture, saxophone and trumpet become more and more drenched in an echoey pool of delay as the song progresses, recalling strong Afrobeat influences. But main writers, saxophonist Jeremy Rose and trumpeter Nick Garbett, have more in store than glamorous production tricks. Their intimate conversation on "Little Mountain" is merely a hint at how well they are able to run complementary lines by each other. Exhibitions like "Annica" or "Overnight" further elaborate this notion, in frames of subtle melodies and progressions. On "West Mass," Rose and Garbett join the percussive rhythm section by echoing one another's motifs in a call-and-response fashion. The atmospheric nature of the monotonous and robust bass line, combined with the screeching brass and wood, is reminiscent of the fusion 'milestone' Bitches Brew (Columbia Records, 1969).
Like "West Mass," some of the compositions on the album can more likely be considered as sketches, jams or interludes, not only due to a shorter running time but mostly because of their improvisatory and otherwise minimal nature. "Our music has always been about creating snapshots: places we've been to, people we've met, musical cultures that fascinated us, drawing from all corners of the world" Jeremy Rose says. Placed in between standout compositions, such as the bass and melody driven "Lahinch" or the free and jumpy "Vampage," the short outtakes make for a diverse and light listening experience.
The most impressive aspect of The Vampires has to do with the dichotomy between rhythm section and leads. Only very few musicians seem aware of how much very little is capable of summoning. Bassist Alex Boneham and drummer Alex Masso prove to belong to the minority who understand the value of understated grooves. The elegant melodies performed and developed over this crisp foundation by sax and trumpet make for a most pleasant listening experience.
Tofik; Little Mountain; Don Pacifico; The View From Fez; Liberty?; West Mass.; Number Domu 66; Lahinch; Annica;
Overnight; Aeon; Adrianek; Vampage; Little Dip
Jeremy Rose: saxophone, bass-clarinet; Nick Garbett: trumpet; Alex Boneham: bass; Alex Masso: drums