Last year’s excellent Expect Delays marked them out as developing contenders. With album number three, Evans the Death afford themselves a moment of wry reflection. That title. Says it all. Quietly it asks: do you really think we’d have plumped for this if we hadn’t absolutely fucking nailed it? Vanilla is flavoursome and cultured, and spiked with an audacious fusion of influences. From the off, it wants it all. ‘Haunted Wheelchair’ is a high tension, high stakes opener and it references the freakoid greats: Stereolab, Hawkwind. A heavy, hypnotic throb, dual guitars unwind and crackle; Katherine Whitaker’s vocals are out there in the distance. (Whitaker shines throughout. That voice, a soulful, roughened instrument, cements Evans the Death’s pack-leading credentials.)
Recorded largely live and touched up afterwards – but barely – Vanilla is mixed to showcase the band’s advancing musicality; its DIY soundboard is crafted with care. On ‘Suitcase Jimmy’, a tempo-changing barrage of off-kilter groove and foursquare rhetoric, guitars and saxophone scrap and jolt. ‘Cable St. Blues’ is gin-soaked and glorious: a deftly orchestrated duet between Whitaker and guitarist Dan Moss that finds gold in the gutter and splendour in defeat. “A New Orleans jazz funeral”, reckons Moss. Canny lad.
Vanilla rarely settles. It’s a time signature lottery, a tonal and modal lucky bag. Every three minutes it offers surprise and delight, and it tosses off ideas and exhibits enterprise as carefree as you like. The song writing is a league ahead. By the time the ersatz funk of ‘Hot Sauce’ arrives, with its clipped Remain in Light bass and frothy keys, all bets are off. Evans the Death are a near-unclassifiable wonder. In how they mould the best of the US alt scene and classic Brit indie, they emerge as the wide-eyed, grubby offspring of Sonic Youth and Shrag, left alone of an evening to make their own entertainment: the product of superior genes and poor parenting.