Album Review: VHS Or Beta Offer Perfectly Crafted Dance ‘Diamonds Or Death’

When Brooklyn-based electro-collective[lastfm link_type="artist_info"] VHS or Beta[/lastfm] first started spinning out their molasses-dark disco-funk with 2002’s electro-clash breakthrough Le Funk, the indie-pop world welcomed them with sweaty, open arms. The “alternative” kids were ready to dance to a sound that they could call their own.

Almost a decade later, VHS or Beta’s[lastfm link_type="artist_info"] Craig Pfunder[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Mark Palgy [/lastfm]seem to have become imprisoned all these years in sinister discotheque which demands they craft diamond-sharp ’80s-electronic experimentations that still make the kids dance. It is the choice between Diamonds or Death.

A dance album at its finest, Diamonds or Death perhaps signals the “death” of the indie-alternative labeling that has always sat like a hazy hipster crown over VHS or Beta’s heads. With illuminated synths, gloss-tuned vocals, and a European disco-house backbeat, Diamonds or Death isn’t the modern dubstep and glitchpop sound the “kids” go for these days.

But with Diamond or Death’s intuitive songwriting and frenetic, mature lyrics that pay homage to New Wave era dance-rock notables like [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Erasure [/lastfm]and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Duran Duran[/lastfm], VHS or Beta are seemingly no longer writing songs to inspire a new generation, but rather remind them of indie-electronica’s past by paving shimmery roads of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Daft Punk[/lastfm] Euro-house.

“Breaking Bones” has an àpropos title, as it perches in all its electro-psychedelia drama beckoning the listener into a sonic fight between VHS or Beta’s penchant for experimentation and their efforts to retain a musical brand. Thankfully, in the end, the band’s eclectic influences both shine through and inspire boundary pushing, with songs like “Under the Sun.” 

“Diamonds and Death” is pure nocturnal trip-hop with dark, glorious vocals akin to ’90s Icelandic electronic collective[lastfm link_type="artist_info"] Gusgus [/lastfm]and with a hint of the stylish-brood of their future tourmates, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Ladytron[/lastfm].

Jungle beat “Everybody” warms up the dancefloor with [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Giorgio Moroder[/lastfm]-esque embellishments and, strangely, the HI-NRG drive of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Rick Astley[/lastfm]‘s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” “Watch Out” is slick and infectious with dark-edged video game sounding drumpad beats and disco-percussion. Like a cocaine-laced party favor, “Eyes” sounds like a [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Depeche Mode[/lastfm] on a heady mix of stimulants and ketamine i.e. sensual, wired-up, and drugged-out disco.

The song that best sums up VHS or Beta’s new-old sound is the high-flying groovy instrumental “Jellybean,” which deftly fuses together grinding guitar riffs, the hypnotic housebeat, the funky groove of ’80s euro-pop, the sex-fueled electro-clash of the early ’00s, and the dub-driven sound of now.

Diamonds And Death-[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]VHS or Beta[/lastfm]

Track Listing:

1. Breaking Bones

2. Under The Sun

3. Diamonds and Death

4. I Found A Reason

5. Everybody

6. Watch Out

7. All Summer In A Day

8. Eyes

9. Jellybean

10. Over

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