Album Appreciation: Ookii Gekkou by Vanishing Twin

Vanishing Twin are a band that I rediscovered during lockdown, when I came across a track from their 2019 album ’The Age of Immunology’,I had previously seen them a few year previously at the Liverpool PsychFest and enjoyed them immensely. I found singer Cathy Lucas’s voice to be both soothing and beguiling, but in a musical context that seemed to be so innovative, diverse and complex. It seemed to me that there was a competing tension in the whole package between openness and introspection.

Further investigation into Lucas’s background and the band’s make up further intrigued me as well as helping to understand my experiences of listening to that lovely yet challenging album. It seems that the introspection may come from Lucas’s understanding that she was initially one of twins in the womb until her sibling died in utero and was absorbed into Cathy. Her sense of having her sibling within her seems very much central to the group’s aesthetic and, of course, explains the name.

The outward looking nature of the band is reflected in its make up, which comprised of Japanese bassist Susumu Mukai, Italian drummer Valentina Magaletti, Phil M.F.U. (formerly of Broadcast), and Parisian avant-garde filmmaker Elliott Arndt on flute and percussion (Arndt is not part of the band for this new album though). This diversity is very much reflected in the band’s music which is eclectic and inventive; and superbly arranged with all the members melding together in a manner that feels coherent, yet also challenging.

Underpinning all this is the aforementioned aesthetic, this dreamlike notion of a mysterious other which somehow projects the sound into a sort of liminal ‘world’ which simultaneously seems to reveal it and render it unapproachable… a sort of window onto an non-existent realm. This all results in a series of tracks which contain soul melting melodies which for me act as the portal between these ‘worlds’, holding together the beauty that is inherent in the vast majority of this album… together with an easy experimentalism which renders the band’s sound to be somewhat unique.

Having heard ‘Ookii Gekkou’ (Japanese for Big Moonlight) a number of times now I am beginning to think that it is a step on from its predecessor (which, by the way, I still play quite often) in terms of the breadth of what has gone into it… more ideas and more adventurous diversions…. and repeated listens are gradually making me realise that these represent new ways to access that other realm… with such as ’In Cucina’ and its Eastern influence, or the title track with its panoramic feel… almost a 70s soundtrack. Elsewhere the influences are as far and wide as (accurately according to the band): “afrofunk, outer jazz and avant-garde, all while referencing Sun Ra to Alice Coltrane, Martin Denny to Morricone, Can’s Holger Czukay to meditative Gamelan, or The Free Design, to library music of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s…Piero Umiliani, Art Ensemble of Chicago and ELO”.

It is a heady mixture, but one that really works and, to repeat, is for me pulled together by Lucas’s voice which for me is the focal point and siren call into this wonderfully strange and distinctive world that envelops you the more that you listen to it… and the more intently that you listen to it. Like it’s predecessor I have no doubt that it is a set that will continue to grown a develop the more you hear it…

‘Ookii Gekkou’ is released on Fire Records on 15th October 2021.



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