Various - Back to Mine: Death In Vegas
It may be a bad idea for a music reviewer to admit such ignorance, but before listening to this album I had little familiarity with most of the songs (indeed, most of the artists) featured. Still, I guess that makes me the ideal target for such a compilation, and a journey’s more fun when you’re not sure where you’re headed.
The CDs in the Back To Mine series, each put together by a separate individual or band, are billed as “a personal collection for after hours grooving”. In other words, they’re the equivalent of going back to a mate’s house after a night’s clubbing, only to have them bore you with their record collection while they play DJ. Or not. I find them an interesting insight into the mind of an artist and their influences, a chance to discover unheard gems they feel are worthy of your attention. Over three albums, Death In Vegas’ output has been varied and sometimes brilliant, not to mention frequently dark and twisted, making them ideal subjects for such a venture.
The first thing to note is you won’t be doing much “grooving” to this collection, despite the army of pills and capsules and yellow space submarine on the sleeve. As you might expect from the creators of The Contino Sessions, this compilation has more than its fare share of downbeat moments (and yet little of that album’s loudness).
Post-punk cuts from Fad Gadget and, of course, Joy Divison are full of gloomy synths and are as miserable as they come. Dillard & Clark and Songs: Ohia provide weary country. The latter - sparse, acoustic, and with “stunning vocals” (as the notes say) - is quite wonderful. Fitting with this vibe are Cowboy Junkies’ cover of The Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane, and the campfire psychedelia of The Sky Is Burning. If you liked 23 Lies and Killing Smile, both from Scorpio Rising, chances are you'll appreciate these. On a “fun” country note, there’s the banjo pickin’ of Nashville Blues. If this doesn’t have you dancing round the room like a Deliverance extra, it’s fair to say you possess no redneck genes whatsoever.
Elsewhere, Nina Simone sings My Sweet Lord; of course, DIV used snatches of blues vocals on Rocco, and Aladdin’s Story is steeped in gospel. The dub sound which informed most of Dead Elvis is encapsulated in The Upsetters’ Cloak & Dagger. Psychedelic Mood (“one to wig out to in the kitchen”) puts me in mind of David Holmes, with its retro-modern feel. Apparently “made by this 17 year old who lives in this council block with his mum”, Donna is Warp-style experimental electronica. And Only Colombe is a damn fine tune.
There seems a slight lack of range on this compilation (certainly compared to the New Order entry in the series). Given DIV began as a dance act, I expected more in the way of electronic music, and would have liked more variation in noise and mood. However, this is their show, and it’s an interesting one. It may eventually expand your record collection as well as your mind.