Dropping their label and going it alone, the Californian duo delve into their second record with no creative restraints, limitations or suits they have to pander to. The result is an expansion of their sonic scope, building upon their core fundamentals; bombastic riffs, aggressive drums, shrieking vocals and honest, down-to-earth lyricism.
Being a duo with only two instruments can sometimes impose limitations and question the diversity of sound. This does not hinder Deap Vally; it is wholly apparent they are still ripe with ideas and know how to keep their sound fresh. Femejism mixes blues & garage with bursts of punk & grunge. Drummer-vocalist Julie Edwards steps up her drumming, becoming noticeably more aggressive yet doing so in a tight and controlled manner.
Guitarist-vocalist Lindsey Troy dominates the majority of the sound, using her guitar as a multi-purpose tool that forges the foundations of their musical voice. Troy brings her guitar effects to the forefront, creating thick tones that often fill in for bass guitar as well as conjuring up some wacky noodlings that ultimately give the record some discernible character.
Opener ‘Royal Jelly’ immediately imparts the sound the duo established on their debut album; notably similar in composition and structure to ‘End of the World’, with its soft-loud dynamic and pummeling fuzzy refrain.
‘Julian’ then hits with a gargantuan, low-toned riff with Troy using reverb to propel her guitar lines and boost the boldness of their sound. ‘Gonnawanna’ has Troy soaking her guitar in effects to create effective seaside vibes, using a mixture of echo and distortion to realise the aesthetic.
Vocally, Troy presents a range of communicative styles. Her emotional shrieks are ever-present, with elements of krautrock and goth on tracks such as ‘Post Funk’. Appearing mid-tracklist, ‘Critic’ is a gritty, lo-fi rant about everyone being a “critic” and “cynic”. Musically, it works, thanks to Troy’s persistent and raw strumming and the sound eventually flowing into full volume. Edwards plays a larger part overall, mirroring Troy’s vocals on many cuts and providing some melodic backing of her own.
Quality-wise, the latter half of the record does not slump; the girls continue to demonstrate their wide capabilities. ‘Bubble Baby’ is one of the musical highlights in terms of innovation and wackiness. Troy’s clever use of high-pitched guitar slides in the chorus imitates that of a female shriek, birthing a chorus that’s actually an instrumental.
‘Turn it Off’ harbours a cool, laid-back aesthetic, giving the track-listing a breath of fresh air – it’s anthemic, powerful and euphoric. Much like their debut, the duo close the record with an epic, multi-composited track. Troy eases the listener in with a grungey intro riff, with Edwards entering with a chilled, bluesy beat. The track is an undeniable closer in terms of power and distinction, and is a worthy one at that.
Essential tracks: Royal Jelly // Smile More // Bubble Baby // Turn it Off