Wampire have been making a name for themselves of late with attention being heaped upon them all the way from radio 1 bigwig zane lowe to “the blogs”. On the eve of their new album dropping here’s our review of it – does it match up to the hype?
Back in 2001, Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps came together to form Wampire. In the same Portland, Oregon, scene that has produced Unknown Mortal Orchestra and STRFKR, the duo gradually began to make a name for themselves.
It is, therefore, no surprise that they have caught the attention of Polyvinyl when opening up for STRFKR at a hometown show, or that Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s bassist, Jacob Portrait, produced Wampire’s début full length album, ‘Curiosity’.
Curiosity is certainly evoked in one’s mind when first looking upon the album cover. Presented with what appears to be a pair of strange, sci-fi glam wannabes from an alternate 80’s universe, you can’t help but wonder what sonic curiosities they might conjure up. In all honesty, Wampire’s music somehow manages to reflect the same description as their album cover image, which proves surprisingly delightful.
Lead single, ‘The Hearse’, gets the ball rolling with plenty of energy and exhibits everything you need to know about Wampire. The track combines swelling organs with bouncy bass and a driving drum beat, as slightly mechanical vocals resonate through some vaguely trippy effects.
The albums second sample, ‘Spirit Forest'(see below), proves that Tinder and Phipps are just as comfortable settling into a more sedated state. The song works with the same basic mechanics as ‘The Hearse’, but sacrifices its momentum-killing ambiance for an overall slower pace. Even being two minutes shorter in length than ‘The Hearse’, Portrait finds time for some left-field instrumentation, evoking airy synths and a swift, thin-stringed guitar solo.
‘Giants’ combines many different components to create a song that, while varied, somehow remains concise and straightforward. Transitioning from a sinister opening organ riff and surf-rock guitar snarl combination, to a verse and chorus that are pure pop with whipped up candy floss keyboards, makes for a great whiplash tune.
The album winds down with ‘Magic Light’, a dreamy, slow-motion song that focusses on a dark and seductive bass groove, which sets the tone well for Phipps’ “come-hither” vocals and lyrics. Drawing you into a delightfully drowsy fog, the track leaves a lasting impression that remains well after its last notes have faded out.
Having ditched the drum machine of their early house party years, ‘Curiosity’ finds Wampire with a full band, adding a distinct power and impact to their songs, which only emphasises their strength and complexity. Generally speaking, ‘Curiosity’ – albeit somewhat jittery and sporadic – is fantastic. There is nothing on this album that is particularly unique, but when taking into consideration the various contemporary bands who seem to take their influence from the eighties – whether that be musically or aesthetically – Wampire almost certainly come out on top. A début that delivers much more substance than first impressions suggest.
Words by Alana Turk. More writing by Alana on Louder Than War can be found here.