Vandal Moon - Wild Insane
In times of solitude or just having some downtime in the banality of my daily routines, I take advantage of that time to explore the World Wide Web for music or articles that pique my interest. One of several places I frequent for music is Werkstatt Recordings. This label hoovers just under the radar enough that some of its best keep secrets become some of our best ever discoveries. Vandal Moon is one of those great discoveries. Over the years my friend and I have placed many orders with Werkstatt Recordings. We have always been happy with the service and products this label provides. Vandal Moon is by far one of the best releases on this label in my humble opinion. Back in 2016 Blake Voss unleashed his latest most venerable Vandal Moon album on CD and cassette titled "Teenage Daydream Conspiracy".
One way to judge a solid album is how often you listen to it. For the past two years "Teenage Daydream Conspiracy" has found regular rotation in my musical selections. Every track pushes forward with a throbbing surge of post punk bliss channeling influences from New Order, The Cure and The Chameleons. "Pyromania", "Dream Lover", "Romance Demonology" and "Can't Feel" lure you into a dark place that feels very comfortable while "Father" takes a deeper more sentimental tone dealing with loss. There are many themes at work here that ultimately creates a diverse document displaying some addictive song writing and design. I've played "Pyromania" hundreds of times since 2016. This is your future if venture further into the inner sanctum of Vandal Moon.
Sometimes, just sometimes when you hear a new album you just know the next album is destined for greatness. I felt that way after listening to "Teenage Daydream Conspiracy". I just knew that when I heard the next Vandal Moon release it would be not only the best Vandal Moon to date, but also a top release for the year it was released, 2018. It's hard to explain, but it's a vibe a feeling, an intuition that stays with you after the initial listening phase subsides. There is a crossroad where an album loses its luster or continues to stay in constant rotation. I crossed that crucial intersection and moved forward and never looked back enjoying Vandal Moon's music without hesitation. It was then that I knew Blake Voss was really onto something bigger and better than all of his previous works.
The new album is titled "Wild Insane". It features eight tracks of human emotion and angst draped compositions woven into synth driven melodies and neon soaked foundations converging to create a perfectly executed statement of Vandal Moon's next phase! It was written and produced by Blake Voss and mixed by Shawn Ward of FM Attack. The mastering was done by Peter Maher (NIN, Depeche Mode, U2, Patti Smith etc). Vandal Moon is now a duo with the addition of Jeremy Einsiedler (synths & drum machines).
"Wild Insane" is rich with 80’s nostalgia while continually advancing forward with a modern craft for today’s sound. Vandal Moon found a nice balance drawing from the past and the present technologies and influences. This works flawlessly on this eight track masterpiece painting the intellectual and musical landscapes with sound and themes perfect for an imperfect world.
"Wild Insane" is loaded with standout tracks. “Baby Sounds” leads off the album, which according to Blake Voss is about an android waking up with a human conscious and trying to deal with its decision making process. We all know this is a metaphor for how we as humans deal with our own frailty, uncertainty, perceptions and feelings in a world that deals difficult lessons in life, and what we learn from lessons helps define who we are. The theme is backed musically with a pop veneer breathing life into some very addictive synthpop with nods to 80’s and 90’s darkwave influences. Blake’s Smithian vocal style intensifies the mood and feel of the music by creating complete synchronicity in sound and design. “Computer Love” lures us in with more eloquent machinations in the music. The breaks, tempo shifts and transitions create a shadowy pathway pushing the borders of influence into areas of comfortability and experimentation perfect for drifting away within the spell inducing rhythms of Vandal Moon's creative soul. “Wild Insane” wills the pace down just a bit, while unleashing intermittent flurries of airy synths spiraling at us in all directions. The music certainly emits a suspension of time allowing us to completely lose ourselves in Vandal Moon’s trance inducing sonic playground. “Bomb” and “Boy Drinks Girl” is where Vandal Moon really starts to show a willingness to explore deeper within the creative process. “Bomb” featuring vverevvolf showcases dueling male and female vocals set around slower tempo with plenty of 80’s sensations pulsating and circulating throughout the track. “Boy Drinks Girl” features the vocal talents of Nicolette Vaughn. Again the dueling vocals add another dynamic to Wild Insane. This time the theme revolves around trying to move on after a relationship has seemed to have lost its spark. Are they just holding on or is it completely over? Do they really want it to end? The way the track is structured, it eventually feels like a conversation between the vocalists kind of like that famous song about a waitress in cocktail bar. Who is the antagonist and who is the protagonist?
As "Wild Insane" draws closer to the end, we find our first and only instrumental track "Nevermore". It punctures the very heart of post punk bliss and holds its own without relying on the vocal element. Again, the pop veneer is peeled back to reveal a fine musical compliment of self-prescribed solitude with a bassline hinting at late 80's early 90's Sonic Youth showered with synth play reminiscent of the Cure. "Crying on the Dancefloor" and "The Light" complete the album with a slower more atmospheric approach where the music and vocals take turns dominating the sound. "Crying on the Dancefloor" feels a little less somber than "The Light". The dancefloor appears to be a place of refuge where someone can be themselves and be free from whatever pains them as long they are on the dancefloor. The industrial drumming is masked by the vocal work yet complimenting it simultaneously. "The Light" teeters on an experimental level where Voss's full vocal range is demonstrated with a softer musical foundation, which helps the true feeling of track come to life through the vocal element.
The synthwave scene has latched on to Vandal Moon perhaps due to the partnership with FM Attack. I don't get a traditional synthwave vibe, but I can see why some would find it appealing within the genre. The synth work is prominent and formitable and bridges a slight crossover appeal. Bands like The Rain Within or Aeon Rings seem to have that crossover appeal as well while retaining their synthpop chassis.
Obviously Vandal Moon took the time to make this the best album to date. There will be a vinyl version out sometime soon, but until then, load this album into your music players and find the things that make you feel good when listening to a well-crafted work of art. Gorging on the darker tones and the neon undercurrents impaled with the post punk dark wave roots takes me to a place of fulfillment and satisfaction. The past and present found a convergence point and the results yield a remarkable piece of art. Of course all of this is how "Wild Insane" made me feel, perhaps your experience will be different? Not checking this out would be a goddamned shame!
More information on Blake Voss and Vandal Moon can be found here with our interview a few years ago.
May 08 2018
Reviewer since 2012
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