[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
Stop crowding, stand back and make way because here it is. The latest entry in the continuing saga of Deine Lakaien, a band who are one of the few true examples of Darkwave left in the world. When a musical outfit reach their age, there’s a tendency to sort of let things stay as they are. Don’t challenge the status quo, you’ve found your niche so why not play it safe and give them what they want. Plenty of other acts do this routine: play a few warm up dates, drop the album, go on tour and see the same faces from the last 25+ years and then pack up your tents and go home. Depressing,eh? Believe me, it would be very VERY easy for Ernst Horn and Alexander Veljanov to take this route. When you have such a recognizable sound and are such a celebrated pair, why upset the balance?
Because they are artists, they choose to continue surprising their audience. ‘Crystal Palace’ is a confounding album, one which seems to find them back in the swing of things. It won’t win over many outside the fan base but that’s more to do with the listening public’s preference for bland and boring things. Their first single hinted at the landscape and now this record delivers it; I’ve always felt that if they had been around during the times of Tsarist Russia, these two would have been entertaining the court. No, not as jesters whispering noble lies but during, say, a feast or perhaps a royal engagement between various heads of state. You’d have found them overseeing the masked ball, only they would be the ones not wearing any. “Welcome to Crystal Palace, feel free to taste the wine” they state.
Horn and Veljanov chose to return to their normal schedule of releasing every three years which was a very prudent decision. It is just the right amount of time for their chemistry to re-charge. Too quick and you wind up sounding similar to the last record, if they’re away too long when they reconstitute it becomes very forced. They state that this one won’t be like their debut and how could it be. That was twenty eight years ago; I’m loathe to compare this to anything else they’ve done but the gleeful, giddy misanthropy lurking just beneath the austere surface is quite reminiscent of 1996’s ‘Winterfishtestosterone’. Not one which got rave reviews, or many reviews at all but it did highlight this band’s most endearing quality even if it is a bit of an oversimplification.
The mad scientist and his eccentric balladeer, that’s the base on which all of their work is built. The contrast between one man’s technical prowess and faultless compositional logic up against the others decidedly romantic, unpredictable humanity. I’m sure a psychologist could define their partnership in more concise terms so if you are one, and you’re reading this, comment below.
Leaving behind the ruminations on why and how they do what they do, permit me to remind those listeners out there who are curious just what this duo could come up with this far along in their career to warrant such an exhaustive dissection: pure symmetry. But not of a pleasant sort, because nothing Deine Lakaien do is ever completely so. Many of the tracks featured on the standard and special editions carry on their tradition of jarring the ears of those who are investigating; Horn just cannot resist throwing in a disconcerting clang here or a thudding jab there, even if Veljanov is in the midst of a very delicate moment. He is without doubt unique in the way he puts these songs together, it’s almost like he does it purposefully. The cunning fox.
It is a splendid table they’ve laid before us, so no more of this nattering. Time to tuck in.