Death In VegasThe Contino Session
The Mrs Monkey Old School Album Review
Death in Vegas: The Contino Sessions – Released 1999- Recorded at The Contino Rooms and The Strongroom, London, England; Electric Lady Studios, New York, New York. Concrete Records
Death In Vegas: Tim Holmes (keyboards); Richard Fearless (DJ).
Additional musicians: Iggy Pop, Dot Allison, Bobby Gillespie, Jim Reid (vocals); Ian Button (guitar); Seamus Beaghen, Gary Burns (keyboards); Ali Friend (acoustic bass); Matt Flint (bass); Simon Hanson, Will Blanchard (drums); London Community Gospel Choir (background vocals).
- 1. Dirge
- 2. Soul Auctioneer
- 3. Death Threat
- 4. Flying
- 5. Aisha
- 6. Lever Street
- 7. Aladdin’s Story
- 8. Broken Little Sister
- 9. Neptune City
My first introduction to Death In Vegas was seeing the video for Aisha and being taken by both the fact that Iggy Pop was on guest vocal and the actual music. I received the album as a Christmas present and have been listening to it ever since.
Death in Vegas was the brain child of Richard Fearless who formed the band in 1994, originally under the name “Dead Elvis”. At this point he was working with Steve Hillier and a first album was released in 1997 called Dead Elvis. The following 2 years saw a partnership with Tim Holmes and the writing and recording of The Contino Sessions.
Death in Vegas were at the forefront of “Big Beat” a type of dance music featuring distorted, compressed breakbeats at moderate tempos (usually between 120 to 140 – beats per minutes, acid house style synth lines along with heavy loops from 60s and 70s funk, rock, jazz and pop songs. Distorted base lines and punky vocals add to the sound. There is also a heavy psychedelic influence running through Big Beat. Death in Vegas has a great, hypnotic, heavy baseline pounding through their songs.
“Dirge” eases the listener into the album. Dot Allison co wrote the song and provides the vocals. A simple acoustic guitar is accompanied by Dot’s La la la’s. The drum beat follows then the baseline. The song builds with guitars and effects. The base line and La la la’s continue through the song as the memento builds. The listener is drawn in by the simple but heavy and mesmerising baseline and vocals. Almost six minutes go by too quickly when the final crescendo hits and the song gently winds down. One of the best songs on the album.
Bobbie Gillespie (Jesus and Mary Chain / Primal Scream) provides the lyrics to “Soul Auctioneer “A slightly creepy synth starts the song followed by the heavy baseline. Bobby sings of “eggs bearing insects hatching in my mind “broken wings” and loosing demons. The lyrics are interesting yet I have no idea of exactly what the lyrics mean – Bobby if you are reading this please let me know.
“Death Threat” does not have a guest star. The base line subtly plays under synths. The song is quite repetitive but not monotonous. For me this is one of the weaker songs
“Flying” on the other hand is a joy to listen to. The base line sucks in the listener and brings them into an almost trance like state. As with “Dirge” the song builds as it goes along and the listener builds with it. Swaying is inevitable and there is a definite Velvet Underground vibe to it. This is one of my favourite songs on the album. It is easy to imagine yourself at some late 1960’s club with the Doors etc present and a crowd all tripping out to the music. Beautiful.
Iggy Pop provides the vocal to Aisha. A rather chilling tale of a serial killer who escaped from prison. As he recounts the tale of the unpleasant deeds he make a rather startling revelation. The base and guitar compliment the vocals and give a chaotic accompaniment. The keyboards add a sense of the 70s. As Iggy starts to scream through the chaos the keyboard takes over and the listener is left feeling some of the terror that poor Aisha would have been feeling by the end. Another favourite
An almost organ sounding keyboard opens “Lever Street and has the listener wondering where it is going, heavy or mellow? Unfortunately you are left wondering as the song is little more than a long intro.
Aladdin’s Story see a gentle base and keyboard plodding along building to the London Community Gospel Choir (arranged by Dot Allison) sing of the trouble they have seen with lots of ohhh and ahhhs in the background. Again a simple but rather beautiful song.
Jim Read (Jesus and Mary Chain) sings the lyrics. The song starts with some manic guitars leading into the trademark baseline. The song tells of a girl who blew her brothers brains out and the singer asks whether it was a good time? The song is quite slow and pounding, perhaps a reflection of the brother’s last few moments?
There is a very late 60s, psychedelic, feel to “Neptune City” A pleasant song that takes you back to kaftans, sitars and free love.
Overall this is an album to listen to late at night, at a chilled party or when you just want to lose yourself in great baselines. There are some not so strong songs on the album though the good ones more than make up for them. For me the stand out songs are Dirge, Flying and Aisha. This is a great introduction to Big Beat if you are not familiar with the mid 90s, distinctly British sound.