Death Rattle - Fortress [EP]
London electro duo Death Rattle have piqued the interest of many a tastemaker, from XFM to Artrocker. They stunned ears and left jaws agape with their astonishing yet gloomy first EP, HE&I, and they're set to continue the trend with new release Fortress – it's still music of obsidian darkness (perhaps more so), it's still engorged with anguish and it's still bloody brilliant. Treat this EP not as an advancement or 'growing' of their sonic identity, but more as the second act to HE&Is first. They've drawn comparisons to the industrial powerhouses Nine Inch Nails, Knife-offshoot Fever Ray and Scandipop princess Lykke Li – even new wave legends Depeche Mode – and in some respects there are tinges of truth to those claims, but more often than not Death Rattle are content lurking in a musty, cobwebbed cranny that is much their own.
'White Ropes', with its gently oscillating synth drips is ominously sexual. The vascular beats, muddied with rattling snare conjoin for a subtly defiant rhythm section; lofty mists of sweating keys ogle the murkier action below. Helen Hamilton tantricly sighs: "I would give it all up/ and they can take me away/ white ropes around my arms/ wouldn't help to make me stay." Potentially not the most romantic song (lyrically, it actually seems to refer to a breakup), but the music itself is wonderfully sensual. It's a great juxtaposition. The track is remixed by Tuffan later on the EP. Tuffan's reworking focuses on that loverlorn aspect, injecting the cut with lethargic pads and Bambi-on-ice percussion. It's a whole lot eerier – Hamilton's voice echoing between beacons of bass is casually distorted. There's an element of passion still, but it's more intoxicated, disconnected and detached from reality.
Aside from 'White Ropes', the other two efforts on the EP are 'in Time' and title track 'Fortress'. The former is an solemn, elegiac funeral march – the beat plods onwards as Hamilton soulfully wails, mourning a shattered relationship: "We have to draw the line/ now it's over." The theramin-esque synth doesn't entirely fit, it's a 50s sci-fi sound shoehorned into neo-industrial electropop which somewhat jars. 'Fortress' has '40s noir bass that's jazz-tinged and mechanical. It's a sparse song, with plenty of brief silences; it's more ambient than the rest of the EP, but still highly austere.
It may not be entirely deliberate, but in the arguably more desolate sound on Fortress (as opposed to HE&I) that's been created, Death Rattle have succeeded in making something remarkably intense and erotic. Like the carnal 'Roads' from Portishead and wanton lust of 'Angel' by Massive Attack, this brief EP is menacingly dark. The pair may not have set out to craft a release in that domain, but aside from the melancholy lyrical content, they have. It could soundtrack forbidden post-breakup fondlings. You won't necessarily have the cheeriest boning of your life to this, but it will be eye-opening, breathtaking and the crymax will be cathartic.