Death and the Maiden’s second album exists in the same shadowy world they created in their self-titled debut but refines it, polishes it down until it’s a smooth black pebble. It’s an enigma, like being at a dance party and realizing part way through you’re actually at some sort of pagan ritual of death.
It’s been just over a month since the Port Chalmers three-piece opened the gates to the beautiful dreamworld of Wisteria. I met with the band during a rehearsal for their album release gig on Saturday.
“It’s been nice because we’ve been sitting on it for so long, it’s been two years since the time we recorded it” explains Danny Brady (synths), “because you get to the point where you just can’t tell anymore whether it’s good or not, just what the hell is this? So it’s been nice getting feedback, and mostly positive feedback.”
Mostly positive is an understatement. English author Mick Middles in a fascinating review for thequietus.com compared the album to a “lull” in the mid 80s Manchester scene where “a curious ethereal mist settled over ghostly dancefloors”.
He concludes: “So you find an album that, at once, glistens with a hearty pulse and drifts further and further into ghostly fog.”
Port Chalmers is about as far from the clubs of Manchester as you can get, but the portside town from where the band hail is certainly no stranger to “ghostly fog”. I ask the band whether they thought the setting influenced the sound.
“Most definitely.” replies Lucinda King (vocals/bass), “I walk around Back Beach in Port Chalmers a lot and that’s where a lot of my lyrics are written as I’m walking, usually in cold weather.”
And much like the cold weather her lyrics definitely have the tendency to catch you off guard a bit. While the songs regularly break into pulsing, hypnotic rhythms, if you delve deep enough the lyrics are darker than the rest of the music suggests.
Asking a band to describe their own music never goes well, and this band is no exception. Guitarist Hope Robertson describes it as “sad pop music with loud noises in it” which, while technically accurate, doesn’t quite paint the full picture.
“It’s just what naturally happened… Because I think we all come from quite different music backgrounds or different tastes” explains Danny.
“But we do have some things in common, we all like Portishead, so there’s that.” concedes Hope.
“I think most of it is more sad than happy,” adds Lucinda, “but we’re kind of tricksy so it sounds more positive and upbeat. But I don’t think there are any positive songs on there.”
I ask how the songwriting process works for them.
“It’s different depending on the song but a lot of the time they could be things I’ve made at home recorded in Ableton or Reaper or whatever I use and then I bring it to those guys.” says Lucinda.
“But sometimes it’s like, there’s a few songs on the album where we were making it on the spot for the record.”
Duchess, a lumbering track accented by bleepy arpeggios, was one of these songs. The two vocal tracks were apparently recorded in one take each and made up on the spot.
“That was probably the funnest song to record, doing it like that” says Lucinda.
The release gig is tonight in Port Chalmers, a perfect locale but a bit of a challenge for us city dwellers. If anyone has a spare seat let me know. Supporting them is Wet Specimen which is the new band of Lucy and Reggie of Opposite Sex, and Kolya which is Nikolai from Élan Vital.
Rumour has it they’ll be playing for the first time ever as a five piece with live drums and more… So if you only attend one Death and the Maiden gig this is the one.