Fan Death - Womb of Dreams
Right off the bat, let’s get the gag about this being a long-gestating album out of the way. This duo grabbed the attention of nu-disco fiends everywhere with the release of the sublime 'Veronica’s Veil' in 2008, a heady blend of sweeping strings and parping synths professing the glories of some rent-boy messiah. It’s custom-designed to play on an infinite loop in the world’s darkest, dirtiest goth club.
Since then it’s been pretty quiet from the pair, but five-track EP A Coin for the Well dropped earlier this year and now the debut album proper is primed and ready for the masses. There’s a surprisingly wide variety of instrumentation utilised on Womb of Dreams, and the breadth of ideas on display soon puts to rest any idea that this will be the one-note Italo effort many might have predicted, though it does contain its fair share of electropop showstoppers, notably 'Phantom Sensation', where a hypnotic rising chord progression and squelching synths combine beautifully, complemented by a vampish turn from improbably monickered vocalist Dandelion Wind Opaine. There are touches of haunted folk in sinister lullaby 'Constellations', with Opaine’s vocals hung daintily over flickering keyboards and a dancing harp to stunning effect. Her affected singing style works a treat for the most part, but there are a few occasions, in particular on 'Choose Tonight' and 'When The Money’s Right', that those hard vowels can start to grate. It’s no coincidence that these are two of the weakest tracks on the LP, both built around some pretty run-of-the-mill plinky-plonk beats.
Another change of pace, the toned-down, haunting ballad 'Side By Side', is a clear highlight. Drum machine patters build a longing intensity under spare pulses and a slinky melody that melt around Opaine’s honeyed vocals. Things are rounded off with the slow-burning 'Almost There', an atmospheric mood piece drenched in robotic echoes, stuttered snares and half-heard chants that morphs into a stirring closer.
Womb of Dreams proves itself a consistently interesting and entertaining debut effort and, although there are more than a few missteps along the way, is a record rich with promise. Whatever the reason behind the long wait for this album, it will prove a solid base for the beguiling duo to launch into concocting another batch of bewitching tunes.