Death In June - Peaceful Snow [New European Recordings/Soleilmoon - 2010]As any Death In June fan knows, each of the project’s many albums have their own distinctive sound, twist and take on Douglas P’s unequalled and one-off song writing & sonic identity. “Peaceful Snow”, I guess, is one of the most distinctive and different albums of the project’s 30 year career, as it features purely piano as a backing to Douglas P’s gloomy & wordy baritone vocals; instead of the familiar acoustic or electric guitar which has featured in all of the other project’s albums.
The elegant, detailed, melodic and mainly upbeat piano is played by a highly talented Slovakian pianist by the name of Miro Snejdr. And Douglas P’s distinctive, slightly sinister, yet often tuneful singing voice pushes wordy & thoughtful lyrics over the tracks’ quite grand ‘n’ rousing piano accompaniment that has hints of up-beat piano lounge music, pop and singer-songwriter and even show tunes running through it.
The album as a whole feels a bit lighter and warmer than many DIJ albums, yet there’s still dark ‘n’ unhinged elements here & there, like sudden jarring vocal snippets, subtle vocal effects/ textures and very minimal yet unsettling musical elements like sudden crystal glasses chiming, which keep you slightly unnerved and never fully mellowed-out. All told the album is a very pleasing, different and rewarding take on DIJ’s sound, with the songs really growing on you more & more with each repeated play. I guess part of me pines for a little guitar here ‘n’ there to add a some variation, but for the most part the pace and feel varies from track to track meaning it never starts to sound too samey.
The ltd edition CD version of the album comes with a rather wonderful second full length “Lounge Corps” album which features purely piano interpretations of some of DIJ’s most known & loved songs. This is an excellent stand-alone release in it’s own right, and it shows what a great and dramatic tune writer Douglas P has been over the years.
So, all in all, a quite surprising sounding and feeling DIJ record, which may take a little time to get into for those who always think of Death In June as a guitar and vocal based project. But, persevere and you’ll see this is another great chapter in this distinctive project’s career.Roger Batty