Is a world of hardening national borders an expression of a global hardening of hearts? UK based multi-national group Vanishing Twin hope not, and on their 2019 album The Age of Immunology invite us to open our ears and minds to a vision of music sans frontières.
Formed in Britain in 2015 around the talents of singer and multi-instrumentalist Cathy Lucas, Vanishing Twin members have a range of backgrounds: Belgium, France, Italy and the US contribute to a diversity of sensibilities. A nice touch is the inclusion of each voice in its primary language, adding a low-key exoticism and a ‘world village’ feel.
As for the music, it could perhaps be described as a multi-hued electronica with instrumental confetti adding colour to the Stereolab groove at the heart of the sound. First track “KRK (At Home in Strange Places)” has a sweet electronic burble to open proceedings followed by some jazz-infused piano over which Ms Lucas sings the brief lyric. Analogue synths are much in evidence, while the acoustic thread that runs through the album—and indeed binds it together—is here represented by gently funky percussion.
“Wise Children” has an industrial/electronic opening that evokes Broadcast but then opens up into a dreamy lounge-pop song. There is an odd but pleasing counterpoint between the smile-sad vocals and the alienated electronic backing. It’s pretty cool, and pretty catchy, and pretty. With “Cryonic Suspension May Save Your Life” (true, I guess, but can you arrange it on-line?) we’re in the territory of quirky electronica again, with a simple melodic hook repeating over a solid foundation of drums and bass. This piece hints at later Can albums such as Soon Over Babaluma and is one of my faves. The vocals enter near the end, as a kind of humanistic coda.
We need a language
That both of us speak
Gestures shared in the air
Between you and me
“Magician’s Success” is another beguiling song where Ms Lucas’ voice and the arrangement strongly evoke Stereolab. A male voice dominates “Planete Sauvage”, declaiming in French over a bubbling bass-line. The one-finger keyboard solo is bold and rather cool. The Can groove re-appears in “Backstroke” whose tribal drums and percussion also brought to mind Talking Heads.
Much thought has gone into the textures infusing The Age of Immunology. It’s a fine sounding album, much more colourful than the monochrome cover might suggest. Indeed, the poster that comes with the LP (also used for the download card—don’t you love album postcards?) represents the retro-futuristic oddness of the album rather better. Not that I dislike the LP artwork: it’s 50s Sci-Fi feel is evocative and appealing, just like the music. There is colour and creativity here; a sense of technology and humanity hand-in-hand. It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to be inoculated against Vanishing Twin. In fact, I’d join the queue for another dose.