Wampire – Curiosity (Polyvinyl)

Portland duo Wampire's debut record Curiosity comes highly recommended

Released May 13th, 2013 via Polyvinyl / By Larry Day
Wampire – Curiosity (Polyvinyl) After spending a great deal of time grinding through the local underground circuit in Portland, Oregon, Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps finally found a light at the end of the tunnel - in the form of a superb and well-received SXSW set earlier this year. Capitalising on their newfound momentum, they’re now set to release their debut record, Curiosity, as alter-ego Wampire. They share a North-West scene with Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Jake Portrait actually produced the record) and STRFKR, and have been compared to both early Strokes and Ariel Pink, so they come highly recommended.

The dynamic duo spent a long time in the studio struggling with this record. The final version is itself the result of chucking out previous incarnations and simply collecting snippets of sound and lyrical morsels on which to improvise when it came to press the big red ‘record’ button. The outcome is a raw kind of psycho-pop, influenced by '70s and '80s rock and the lo-fi of West coast US - think of a beefier Wavves or Best Coast. It's a bit surfy, a bit psychedelic but, on the whole, this is a sticky batch of indie-rock which, while familiar in some respects, also gives a fresh bout of oomph for a genre bogged down in slackerdom and apathy.

Fan favourite and semi-hit 'The Hearse' is the lead single off the record – it's a bundle of infectious bass riffs, aged organ pads and the whipcrack of snare. Foxygen are contemporary similarities, but where they were in effect a tribute act, Wampire succeed in offering an invigorating take on nostalgic belters. Shuffly 'Orchards' is all swooning wah-wah axes and gospel keys. The breathy, yet somehow anthemic, vocals are effortless cool, and when there's no la-la-la-ing we're treated to Old West whistles and/or Theremin. It's a dusty ode for modern cowboys trekking across the frontier to the sun-scorched desert for Coachella or Burning Man, where they'll rustle up beer and have stand-offs with security personnel.

Though partially conjured on the spot, the pair have a strident sonic thread running throughout their music. It's distinctly American, melding elements of aforementioned surf with country-rock and classic '60s rock 'n' roll. Then, before derivative patriotism runs rampant, they brush the whole sound with woozy, fatigued guitars and off-kilter synths. It's got a modern edge, harshening the softness of their rock with a plethora of effects and untamed production.

'Trains' again showcases their fondness for bass and organs (and apparently marimbas), eschewing standard rock conventions to create an alternate timbre. It's slower and more accessible than some of the rest of Curiosity, emanating a certain Tribes vibe. 'Magic Light' opens like a James Blake cut, all dubstep percussion and spacey keys. That tone is quickly shattered by glammy synths and the jarring swagger of Tinder's voice: “I've seen so many city lights in my travels / None have been so bright as yours.”

It's no wonder Wampire’s SXSW set went down so well. Their sound is perfect for the US and, though they're Oregonians, this does have a clear-cut SoCal feel. This is post-chillwave, slacker-rock with energy and high-concept lo-fi; they have taken something chichi and redressed it with nostalgic filigree. In the process of updating a worn-out set of genres, they've crafted a record, which is thoroughly entrancing from beginning to end. Curiosity is a solid first outing.