Reviewed by Kent Manthie
The latest album by Brooklyn-based musical artist (singer, producer & multi-instrumentalist), Erin Hoag, who goes by the nom de la musique Rare DM, Vanta Black, is a cache of tunes – variations on a not unique theme, but done in a fresh, way; a new twist: a less-than-sentimental journey via some catchy, sonically pleasant ethereal loveliness which will please the listener no matter how many times they’ve been down that heartbreak road before. Instead it’s a road with pleasing distractions, new ways of looking at things and sung by one who is just over it.
A few songs on Vanta Black which, at least, upon first listen, include “Think Quiet”, “Dark Eyes”, the latter with the synth playing in a wavering way which doesn’t screw with the tune, in general but adds a mind-twitching mystique. Also standing out, not just for the song qua song but because of what it’s about and the lyrics which articulate its subject; I’m referring to “Softboy”, which depicts the guy with whom Erin broke up shortly before she wrote the song.
The album, according to Hoag, has a theme that reflects its title, Vanta Black, supposedly the “blackest manmade pigment”, a hue of one the many shades of black which is owned by the artist who, apparently, was the first to, probably through experimenting with mixing colors, came up with this particular shade of black and subsequently is the exclusive license holder of Vanta Black, the painter, Anish Kapoor. The songs on Vanta Black are about relationships damaged by destructive actions, despair, soured by too much time apart due to each other’s lack of proximity as well as those relationships that are doomed from the start due to one or the other sabotaging of things (consciously or inadvertently, usually the latter).
I did notice that on “Spell Cast”, which I also thought added to the overall ethereal, glowing aura with a melancholy, almost blues-y vein buried within the luster and sheen of the music also seemed to reflect the still-fresh heartache of the breakup about which “Softboy” is about in its lyrics. One last example I’ll mention here is “Caracal” which has a somewhat more upbeat attitude to it. The fitting guitar parts on “Caracal” is played with aplomb by Oscar Allen Guinn IV. There’s also this whirling texture in the keyboard riff played towards and up to the end which adds another catchy hook to the song.
So, if you like your indie music with a bit of angst – at least in the lyrics – and a smooth, shiny rainbow of hues, musically speaking, then, ironically, Vanta Black, that “blackest of all black shades” will soothe your soul whether you identify with the overall broken couple theme but if not, it’s still worth a listen: fresh, not overly done music that, whatever shape your life is in, vis á vis relationships or otherwise of which you’ll not soon tire. -KM.