Words by Alexandra Mason
A mind melting blend of multiple genres into one intergalactic soundscape, Ookii Gekkou is the latest release from London-based experimental band Vanishing Twin.
After forming in 2015 through a mutual love of unusual instruments and vintage vinyl, Vanishing Twin set out to achieve a synaesthetic approach to music, combining art and imagery with sound to create a whole-body experience. Their latest nine track album, produced by Malcolm Catto (a fixture of the North London groove scene) is imbued with shades of jazz, funk and exotica which coalesce to create a perfect sensory overload. Through the madness and turbulence of lockdown, Ookii Gekkou provides a musical narrative for the sometimes surreal and unusual life experiences to which we have become collectively accustomed over the past 18 months.
Opener ‘Big Moonlight’ exemplifies the rich variety of sound, rhythm and texture evident throughout the album beginning with a toe-tapping jazz shuffle before concluding with a mystical acid folk fade out. Whimsical lyrics and chimes give the impression that we have entered a magical garden full of natural beauty yet one that also has an eerie, haunting feel to it, transporting the listener on a moonlit journey into a supernatural realm of wonderland.
‘Phase One Million’ explores a funky universe incorporating fusions of psychedelia and disco. An insistent riff executed 70s wah-wah style provides an impeccable groove while layers of harmony vocals offer an air of tranquillity and sweet soulfulness to the overall feel.
‘Zuum’ is surely the closest approximation yet of what a happening on Mars would sound like, replete with infectious rhythmical patterns and instrumentation which mysteriously melt away to morph into other ever changing forms as the track progresses. Surrealistic lyrics add to the track’s ethereal tone with vocalist Cathy Lucas asking ‘Who are we? We are everyone’ in implicit recognition that any existential crisis must be faced together as one united human race. This collectivism contrasts with the track’s varied musical structure which takes us on an unsettling journey as though we are traveling from one planet to another in our ceaseless quest for a solution.
Perhaps most experimental of all ‘The Organism’ includes echoing chimes, wooden percussion, spoken word and keys amidst a broad palette of sounds that awaken the soul. The track references such fundamental questions as ‘What is this simulation? And why am I here?’ while telling a story of fascination and confusion, as though the entity of its title has opened its eyes and experienced the world for the first time, or perhaps has woken up to a world it no longer recognises. The song’s fast-paced repetitive rhythm and melody create the impression of a narrator searching for answers in an unfamiliar environment, again hinting at the uncertainty of our current circumstances.
The Latin drums of ‘In Cucina’ perfectly evokes the hustle and bustle of a carnival atmosphere, at once vibrant, daring and confusing. The track is an immersive listening experience full of contrasting emotions and frantic rhythms which reflect the ebb and flow of all our lives.
Concluding the album on a funky note ‘The Lift’ is an energetic delight with its robotic, electronic instrumentation providing a stimulating contrast to the warmth of the bass and rhythm section. Its themes reflect the overall tone of the album with references to the forces of nature, human exploration and the existential questioning of our existence. Lucas declares ‘I am a dizzy wind’ and ‘a hurricane’ and as a collective ‘we are the weather’ highlighting that we are all on a winding road through ‘the changing patterns of our time.’ The track’s closing line encourages us to ‘look the storm right in the eye’ so that together we continue to fight adversity and channel our united energies into acts, whether creative or otherwise, that will make the world a better place. In expressing such sentiments Ookii Gekkou truly proves to be an album for and about the times in which we live drawing inspiration from the very best of the human spirit.
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