Elvis Resurrected, Again

Iggy Pop and Dot Allison guest.

Two years ago, Death In Vegas stepped onto the post-rave rock scene to charm

us with big beat grunge (the Woodstock-sampling "Dirt") and shambling funk

("Rocco"). But their debut album, Dead Elvis,

meandered more than it mesmerized, and the decision to then record a limp

cover of the English Beat's "Twist and Crawl" suggested that the act had run

out of inspiration before it got going.

Fortunately, the Death In Vegas of The Contino Sessions are an

entirely different band — almost literally. Happening DJ and project

maestro Richard Fearless has dropped his previous partner Steve Hellier,

recruited engineer Tim Holmes and made an album of near-classic proportions

by applying dance music ethics to the instrumental guitar band formula. In

other words, working at downbeat tempos far removed from the thrills of the

modern dance floor, Fearless and Holmes take the format of repetitive beats

and evolving grooves — the fin de siecle notion that atmosphere

and ascendancy form the foundation of great music, not melody and variety

— and apply this process to an old-fashioned world of crunchy guitars,

thudding bass, straightforward drums and spoken word. The result is the

album the Velvet Underground might have made if they had formed now and not

30 years ago.

The obvious talking points are the collaborations. Dot Allison, formerly of

One Dove, la-las angelically on the opener "Dirge"; Primal

Scream's Bobby Gillespie rants on "The Soul Auctioneer"; and the Jesus and

Mary Chain's Jim Reid speaks up on the very Mary Chain-like "Broken Little

Sister." Yet while these tracks provide important variety, the only

essential guest appearance is Iggy Pop, who sounds like a murderously

seductive Sean Connery on the hauntingly crisp and funky "Aisha" (RealAudio excerpt).

Most of the album's instrumentals present a similar majesty without

resorting to semi-famous singers. "Flying" and "Lever Street" (RealAudio excerpt)

take live

drums and Hammond organs, mix them with semi-shoddy guitar riffs and

apparently random electronic effects and turn them into ideal soundtracks

for a late-night chillout. The conclusion finds us reaching to the sky with

"Aladdin's Story" (RealAudio excerpt), religious intonation coming courtesy of the London

Community Gospel Choir, before the finale "Neptune City" teases the listener

on its way to a climax of Spiritualized proportions.

The Contino Sessions takes a little long to get going and is slightly

repetitive, and some collaborations are uncomfortably obvious. But with just

nine songs totaling 48 minutes, it is a perfectly sequenced, ideal-length

album that at its best sounds like nothing less than the future and the past

wrapped together in one cozy late-night synthesized drug.