Volume 93, Issue x

Wednesday, March 18, 1999


Costner at home on field

Death in Vegas turns up a disappointing success

Miguel innovates classic Meringue

An idiot's guide to the idiot box

John Popper snaps and crackles

Death in Vegas turns up a disappointing success

Death In Vegas
The Contino Sessions

If pre-release hype is anything to get excited about, then this new release from Death In Vegas had them poised for big things. Advance industry buzz suggested The Contino Sessions would ultimately be regarded as one of the defining dance music releases of the year.

Of course, as the public should know by now, pre-release hype carries about as much validity as a baby chimp's pencil sketches. It's a simple fact – no amount of hype can ever fool the record buying public into liking a record, no matter how overblown or contrived it may be. Your average music lover will always be able to discern the overblown from the criminally underrated, the disappointingly bad from the surprisingly good.

Which makes The Contino Sessions all the more confusing – it ultimately reveals itself to be a very good, but not great, record.

Essentially an exercise in sparsity, this second effort from the UK-based duo is an experiment in dubby minimalism. In addition to a steady diet of melodic, paranoia-laden instrumentals, The Contino Sessions features vocal contributions from a pretty exclusive cast. Iggy Pop, Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream) and Jim Reid (Jesus & Mary Chain) all contribute vocal takes, usually to mixed results. Even the good stuff is merely good – never earth shattering or ground breaking.

Therein lies part of the problem. Listen to the subtle mastery of album opener "Dirge" and it's obvious whoever was working the hype machine was not completely asleep at the wheel – there's moments of greatness here. It's just that once the album comes to a sudden close, you're left wondering where exactly it fits into the grand scheme of things.

In the context of it's hype, it's probably a disappointment. However, on it's own The Contino Sessions is a strange success. What it basically comes down to is the listener. Those determined to keep pace with the trendsetters can probably afford to dismiss this as an unfortunate hype casualty. However, those lucky enough to listen without expectations will likely love it for what it is. Probably the year's only pleasant let-down.

–Mark Pytlik

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Copyright The Gazette 1999