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Death and Vanilla

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  1. 1.
    A Flaw In the Iris
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    Mercier
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With a sound that marries vintage keyboards, surf guitars, and hushed vocals to subdued psychedelic pop with heavy soundtrack music and dream pop influences, the Swedish group Death and Vanilla picked up the torch that bands like Broadcast and Stereolab carried so well in the '90s and 2000s.
Their records display a keen melodic sense, whether they are bright and sunny, like 2015's "California Owls" single, or a little gloomy, as on their 2019 album Are You a Dreamer? Alongside their day job making dream pop, the band also found work providing live scores for vintage (1932's Vampyr) and notorious (1976's The Tenant) films.
Formed in the town of Malmö by Marleen Nilsson and Anders Hansson, duo debuted on record with a self-titled four-song EP in 2010. Using vintage instruments including Moog synths and Mellotrons, their sound was dreamlike and very precise at once. They returned in 2012 with a self-titled full-length album, which like the previous EP was released by Hands in the Dark Records. That same year the band was invited by the Lund Fantastisk Film Festival to provide the live soundtrack for a screening of Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1932 horror movie Vampyr, for which they expanded the group's lineup to include Magnus Bodin on Moog and Petter Herbertsson on bass and glockenspiel, with Magnus Westerholm providing vibraphonette and percussion. The music was recorded and released on cassette in 2013 by the Moon Glyph label.
After releasing the "From Above" single in 2013, the duo caught the ear of Fire Records, which signed them as they began work on their next album. Working in their rehearsal space, Nilsson, Bodin (who was now a member of the band), and Hansson recorded their songs on one microphone only, a Sennheiser from the '70s they found for cheap at a flea market. Named after Maurice Sendak's classic children's book, To Where the Wild Things Are was released on vinyl and CD by Fire in May 2015. That same year, the trio of Nilsson, Hansson, and Bodin appeared at the CinemaScore festival in Spain to provide live accompaniment to a screening of the Roman Polanski film The Tenant.
In 2016, Fire reissued Death and Vanilla's first album and an expanded version of their debut EP. The band maintained a slate of live appearances, and in 2017 contributed a cover of Bert Jansch's "Moonshine" for Fire's Lost Library EP. Also that year, Fire reissued Death and Vanilla's Vampyr soundtrack on vinyl LP, and the label issued a recording of the group's score for The Tenant in early 2018.
All the while, the group were working on another album, creating loops and stitching together melodies, then combining them into songs. They worked in their rehearsal space again, then moved home to record vocals. This time they used a live drummer, Måns Wikenmo, and recorded his parts at Tambourine Studio in Malmö. The resulting album, 2019's Are You a Dreamer?, was quieter and darker than previous efforts, though it still relied on the same mix of influences and sounds. ~ Tim Sendra, Rovi

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