What a fascinating album this is. Ookii Gekkou, the title of Vanishing Twin’s third album, translates from Japanese as ‘Big Moonlight’ – and it explores the weird and wonderful things that happen to the world when our satellite exerts its fullest possible influence.
This is in effect a creative licence for the collective to make music in the most instinctive way and in the best traditions of experimental jazz, but not restricting themselves to that genre either. From the opening, evocative flute line of the title track it is immediately clear that we are stepping into a new musical world. The nocturnal soundscape is ever changing, filled with melodic ideas and rhythms that are both quirky and wholly logical. This particular track has five beats in a measure rather than four, the ideal foil to singer Cathy Lucas as textures dance in the halflight.
It is thrilling to be introduced to the inner workings of the Vanishing Twin workshop. Zuum has the busy hum of electronics but develops into a kind of squiggly bossa nova, with chattering jungle noises throughout as it teems with activity. It feels like a much more primitive form of communication but a living, breathing one too. Speaking of living and breathing, The Organism bubbles up to the surface with all sorts of intriguing musical goings-on thrown into the melting pot, starting with frog-like croaks but moving to the incredibly comforting purr of a feline presence, which sounds rather wonderful on headphones.
Vanishing Twin throw caution to the winds with their instrumentation, but never over-egg the pudding. In Cucina is rich in colour, with flute and violin in a kind of duel above the thrumming Afrobeat. Lucas’ vocals are an instrument in themselves on Wider Than Itself, which adds close harmony arrangements halfway through. The vocal style is very much in thrall to Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, but that should be a compliment rather than a criticism. It is further endorsed by the presence of Sadier herself, playing guitar on the same track.
Elements of the much-loved Broadcast can also be discerned, but to this the Vanishing Twin members add modern jazz and the skills honed as members of the HaHa Sounds Collective. There is a healthy reverence for dusty soundtracks from the 1960s and 1970s, the group creating brief but vivid sound pictures. There are further stylistic excursions with Tub Erupt using a dubbier profile. Phase One Million complements the sonorous vocals with an easy, funky guitar line.
There is humour, too. “Atomic alignment of body and mind” is promised by the friendly vocoder voice on Light Vessel, intoning its promises over a busy broken beat and some wonderful spatial effects.
Ookii Gekkou is certainly at its most effective at night, but like the full moon it portrays it can have a pronounced effect on daytime listening too. It is Vanishing Twin’s most adventurous album yet, and repeated listening brings out more of the inspiration behind it. The more time you spend with the group, the more you will fall under their moonlit spell.