[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
There are three constants in the world which the Vampire Rodents inhabit: suspense, cynicism and funk. I know that sounds strange, but then this is no ordinary artist. You can add longevity to that mix as we’ve not heard from D. Vahnke since his Ether Bunny project’s 1996 debut. Of course, there have been sightings since in the form of random interviews and websites describing his future plans which after a while went dead. In the interim, the one thing we fans have had to keep us going was the continual hope that someday this record would emerge.
That day has arrived.
As expected, his material continues to stand out from the rest of the pack; what I hadn’t counted on was the vast range of musical styles he’d be displaying for us. Those beats which he cobbles out of pure samples remain as an anchor but what’s going on around them is quite impressive; most of the tracks on ‘Noises in the Wall’ don’t even top four minutes, however, these are no mere cues. Each one is a microverse unto itself, complete with all manner of scales, melodies and sometimes even a random stab at harmonics.
Had this been released as originally planned VR would still have remained obscure but I think his audience would have broadened somewhat because it does not sound like the other five albums he’s put out. This is fully instrumental and also has one hell of a film-score tucked within it’s carnivorous belly. With luck, there are more parts to “The Zombie Dolls” and I’m really hoping we get to hear them. These kinds of cinematic gems are far and few between and only one of them even cracks the two-minute mark.
If you’ve ever wondered how much damage one person could do with a sampler then wonder no more; this has been a continual trademark to how he composes and it certainly explains why he hasn’t done any new work under the VR name since the 90s: those who comprise the the corporate music “industry” have a stranglehold on samples. You can’t just sit down, load up the banks and release this sort of work openly like in the old days; their publishing operatives will track you down and levy heavy fines wherever possible. A damn shame I’d say, because not only are they denying artistic expression they’re stifling creativity in the name of commerce.
Something else which this collection has made glaringly obvious is just how far the majority have drifted towards popular culture in the underground since this act called it a day; we now have have vapid little clowns mincing about in slick and glossy videos just begging for validation from the tastemakers of social media. There’s not much impetus to forge off the beaten path with nothing but your imagination to guide you anymore; settle down, keep quiet, trust authority. The Vampire Rodents haven’t mellowed with age, they remain the same jolting set of jumper cables to the brain regardless of what year it is.
There’s isn’t any kind compromise going on here; just like then, no sound source is safe and no methodology is out of bounds.
Even though this is an archival release, ’Noises in the Wall’ demonstrates throughout it’s sweeping arc that there’s plenty of territory left to explore outside the bounds of conventional composition, you just have to be willing to stay off the radar in order to accomplish this feat, which may be the reason why nobody else ever tried to further explore what the rodents originally tapped into. It may be hard to believe this but that’s the truth of the matter; happily, there are more of these excavations coming from him so this situation may yet be remedied.
…bring on the feast.