Oxford cosmic-blues duo Vienna Ditto produce a truly unique debut album, laden with smoky atmosphere and sassy attitude.
If there’s one thing that can be said for Vienna Ditto it’s that they have managed to produce a musical style that is unlike any other.
Based in the Oxford/Reading area, the duo manage to combine blues, rock n roll, electronica and b-movie sci-fi to create a sonic collage that is almost without comparison. With three EPs and a variety of singles to their name, Vienna Ditto are by no means new to the scene. However, 2015 signals their first ever full length release, ‘Circle’, and it’s with bated breath that we await to hear how well they transition into this medium through a mixture of brand new songs and reimagined material.
‘Circle’ hits the ground running with the ferocious ‘This Is Normal’. Starting with simple, palm-muted guitar courtesy of Nigel Firth, Hatty Taylor soon joins with her trademark smoulder. Her voice tender and sweet, but also assertive with a certain sting in the tail. It seduces the listener but also makes it clear that the owner is not to be messed with. As the song builds more and more elements are thrown into the mix in the form of stabbing synths and ambient electronic noise. The balance is perfect, with neither the organic nor the artificial overpowering the other. ‘Feeling Good’ is a very different affair in terms of style; a live set mainstay blending scorching rockabilly riffs, pounding drums and a spellbinding, apocalyptic chorus. ‘Wintertime’ captures Vienna Ditto in a more mellow mood, with Taylor’s voice barely above a sultry whisper accompanied by shimmering keys in a frozen noir landscape. Barely a quarter of the way into the album, this trio of songs has already proven the musical flexibility that Vienna Ditto possess, making for some exhilarating listening.
Next up are the albums current singles, ‘Oh Josephine’ and ‘Long Way Down’. The former, a tribute to dancer and civil rights icon Josephine Baker, is an upbeat yet eerie number with an outro section so infuriatingly catchy, it’s a chore to shift from one’s mind. ‘Long Way Down’ sees both members of the group putting in one of their best performances, with Taylor showing off her impressive vocal range whilst Firth’s instrumentation is nothing short of wizardry. Vienna Ditto continue to leap between genres as the album progresses, whether it be the schizophrenic circus electronica of ‘A Happy Car Is A Stolen Car’, the gloomy Mark Lanegan/Isobel Campbell-esque acoustic blues of ‘Pale Horse Rider’ or the feisty rock n roll belter that is ‘Hold On’. It is quite astounding to hear how, as ‘Circle’ progresses, the duo don’t run short of inspiriation, and the listener is never given the impression that they are falling back on old, secure ideas. ‘A Wheel Within A Wheel’ is a swirling, hypnotic piece of pure psychedelia, although some may find the middle instrumental break to be a tad harsh in the context of the song. ‘Hammer And A Nail’ is perhaps the most adventurous number of the album overall, falling somewhere between country, blues and space rock by way of a Mexican standoff. The penultimate track will be a delight to fans of Vienna Ditto, as they bring the pace right down with a stripped-back version of the title track from their 2013 ‘Liar Liar’ EP. Rather than the furious rocker it was in a previous life, this version is a solitary voice with a single electric guitar as accompaniment. The effect is truly haunting and not without the odd shiver up the spine. ‘I Know His Blood Will Make Me Whole’ is the perfect closer to any Vienna Ditto record as it is the personification of their sound; a veritable smorgasbord of husky vocals, slide blues guitar, driving beats, aggressive synths and general cosmic madness.
Vienna Ditto’s debut album has been around half a decade in the making and it has been well worth the wait. ‘Circle’ captures brilliantly the creative force of the duo and the vast array of sounds they can conjure. It’s not an absolutely perfect album; there are very occasional moments where a lyric doesn’t sit quite right or the tone of an instrument is slightly off kilter, but it is never enough to derail any of the songs. At this stage, Vienna Ditto are needing an album that boldly showcases their sound and talents in a way that demands attention and praise. With ‘Circle’, they have accomplished just that.