Death in Vegas

Satan's Circus

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That Krautrock figures into the picture is the big surprise on Death in Vegas' fourth release, but what's shocking is that Neu! and Kraftwerk are so mimicked on Satan's Circus. For a band headed up, up, up, Satan's Circus is a huge question mark, in career move terms at least, and one wonders why such a derivative album wasn't put out under an alias. Before it gets to the bridge, "Zugaga" is one note off from Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express." None of the new tones or melodies after the bridge make the track necessary, but this is an album full of unnecessary tracks, which doesn't keep it from being a great hour of background music for whatever the high-tech task at hand. It's Stereolab from a former big beat producer's view with a bit of indie electronic's humility, or in other words, pleasantly otherworldly. "Reigen"'s proggy organ/thumpy drum machine combo is one of the best illustrations of when it works, but there are plenty of other tracks that subtly charm the listener with hypnotic melodies and irresistible rhythms. Real live drums and guitars figure into the picture, as do Klaus Schulze's old synth sounds and Boards of Canada's sonic landscapes. Maybe it's not fair, but the fact that the duo aping all these influences was halfway through producing an Oasis album when it recorded this makes Satan's Circus a more interesting record than if it were somebody's debut album. Put on the sources that were heavily borrowed from -- if you want that totally engaging headphone journey -- but this slick homage to electronic hippie music sounds like two smart guys having genuine fun playing something they love. Let them jam and meander in the background as you go about your business, and this guilty pleasure for the avant-garde lover will raise a satisfying smirk. [To remind fans of when Death in Vegas played with a bit more bombast, a bonus CD is included featuring a rousing live show from 2002.]

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