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Vanishing Twin
Afternoon X Amanda Farah , October 2nd, 2023 08:01

A slimmed down line-up sees Vanishing Twin making great strides in dreamlike spaces, finds Amanda Farah

Now reconvened as a trio, Vanishing Twin have taken a bold step forward with their fourth full-length album, Afternoon X. There is a dichotomy at play of denser, more distorted electronics at one pole and soft, minimalist arrangements at the other; gauzy sounds cut against metallic harshness within songs and across the album. But with this expansive approach, Afternoon X feels focused and cohesive.

In contrast to earlier albums, bandleader Cathy Lucas is the only vocalist on Afternoon X, unifying the palette of the album. Lucas’ vocals are cool and direct, and though never dispassionate, they are sometimes distant. On ‘Lotus Eater’ and ‘Lazy Garden’ in particular, she sounds like she’s caught up in her own daydreams. ‘Lotus Eater’, with the opening line, “I’m waking up in Paris” and rippling chimes, conjures the feeling of a retro television dream sequence.

The dream sequence imagery isn’t the only moment that will make you question if your vision is going blurry. The opening notes of the title track are a stunning wash of noise, an intensity of reverb that feels like images zooming in and out of focus. The freeform electronics melt around an almost rock music rhythm construction, with marimbas peeking above the waves. It’s here where these hazy sounds are first crushed against by harder, more mechanical sounds – a choppy cut in and switch back to the haze that emphasises the song’s surreal and destabilising quality.

The contrast in tones plays out like a theme across the album, as well as within songs. The swirling, otherworld chimes of ‘Lotus Eater’ are stamped out by the electronic staccato of ‘Marbles’, an ode to the difficulties of communication. The stinging electronics are slowly subsumed by woodwind sounds before shifting into a second fantastical movement where acoustic guitars, strings and woodblock rhythms take the lead. The sudden introduction of acoustic instruments is jarring, but is also a familiar 70s experimental music affect the band have toyed with on previous albums.

With so much density at other points in the album, minimalist tracks tracks like ‘Brain Weather’ and closer ‘Subito’ offer space to breathe for the listener as well as Lucas’ vocals. Those tracks also showcase the marked shift in percussion away from the jazz-styled fills of previous album Ookii Gekkou – a shift with a significant effect on the energy of Afternoon X. Drummer Valentina Magaletti’s approach is more varied, playing with Morse code-like repetitions and more electronic influences. It underscores that, for as vivid as many of the tracks on Afternoon X are, Vanishing Twin’s progress has to be viewed as a whole.