Anomie is the debut album from avante-garde alternative rock band, Death And The Penguin. Following the album release on 27th July, the band will play ArcTanGent Festival in August and a number of gigs with Space Blood. Their band name originates from a post-soviet satire by Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov, and this debut full-length combines aspects of math, electronica and jazz with their central focus of alternative rock – certainly an interesting mix.
Death And The Penguin explore contrasts and experiment with instrumentation throughout the album. With developing motifs to be found across the tracks and alternating sound levels and tones. Contrasts are particularly prevalent across this album occurring in the form of different tones, lyrical ideas and use of instruments. The Calving Shuffle has an energetic feel but is contrasted with staccato guitar motifs. Juxtaposing a flowing, energetic sound with interruptive aspects leads the track to have an uncomfortable nature. These two opposing styles are present in the vocals as well as the instrumentation. Edgier vocals with a harsh tone accompany the interrupted sections whilst more fluid vocal styles are heard with the flowing sections of the track. A similar contrasting style is shown through Kill Saatchi; the blues style of the verse has a relaxing feel which is interrupted with clashing staccato chords.
Contrasts also occur between tracks on the album more widely. Hospital Song, the opening track of the album, has a melancholy atmosphere with dark lyrics. The use of an organ gives a haunting tone whilst long draw-out vocals enhance the somber mood. This greatly contrasts Space 1998 which involves clean guitar riffs and echoing synths creating a space like atmosphere – a very different theme to Hospital Song. Was It Kindness? explores tones differing significantly to both of these tracks. A prominent piano melody and fast vocal line create a dramatic atmosphere even though the instrumentation is stripped down. The introduction of bass melodies and an energetic drum fill style riff, build up the track to another level. Death And The Penguin reveal their abilities of fusing different musical genres and developing variation amongst their songs. It shows their competence with their instruments and song writing.
The genre-mixing is significant in the variation of tracks across the album. Colour In Me contains jazz influences entwined with alternative rock. is fast paced with synth melody opening and fast percussion rhythm, with Toby Smith’s soaring vocals added to the mix. Bringing in guitars bridges the gap between vocals and instruments. The jazz influenced riff is easy listening. The distorted edge to the guitars gives an extra alt rock feel that emerges further in other areas of the track. The layered vocals build the song up to its fullest sound before reducing again to percussion, vocals synth melody. This alternating with instrumental layering through the track gives it definition as the moment and sound levels rise and fall through out. Misha Lives differs with a dark melody in low piano, heavier distorted tone opening, slower tempo drums, lower tones in vocals. The scaling guitar riff adds the higher tone, contrasting the lower pitch of the overall song with a sombre, more melancholy tone yet also easy listening elements. Alt-rock really comes through in the guitar solo with a distorted tone. The dirty tone, with not all notes distinguishable, contrasts the use of clean melodies in other tracks on the album where all notes are clearly heard. These different playing styles reveal the band’s abilities with their instruments.
Anomie is a very strong debut release from Death And The Penguin. The array of genres and tones used across the tracks shows that they understand their instruments and how to use them in different styles. Despite their experimentation, the tracks remain cohesive as an overall album. Their writing style has a unique edge that transfers across the album regardless of the range of sounds and tones explored.
For fans of: Muse, Reigning Days, October Drift
Words by Holly Royle
‘Anomie’ by Death And The Penguin is released on 27th July.