Motor City Drum Ensemble’s Danilo Plessow and Innervisions’ Marcus Worgall’s 2014 debut self-titled collaborative album as Vermont saw them fusing elements of synth soundtracks and ambient with a krautrock and kosmische-tinged sensibility to create sheeny, widescreen arrangements best suited to a late night and a pair of good headphones. Three years on, this follow-up album ‘II’ more or less picks up directly from where its predecessor left off, and comes just as drenched in vintage analogue synths, with the distinctive tones of Arps, Moogs, Prophet and Juno making an appearance throughout the thirteen tracks collected here.
As with Vermont’s debut album, there’s a distinct focus upon the spaces between the stripped-back yet lush arrangements, with an economical number of musical elements being introduced and then being allowed to develop their own downbeat interplay. Opening track ‘Norderney’ certainly acts as a suitably evocative curtain roller as minor-key synth orchestration interjects a distant sense of eerie atmosphere between slowly wandering moog bass tones and phasing effects, Robbert Van Der Bildt’s feathery guitar interjections offering the one discernibly human presence amidst what feels like a lunar landscape of trailing downbeat electronics.
‘Dschuna’ meanwhile gets more dark and brooding, sending liquid synth chirps spilling out like raindrops over a backdrop of weary sounding bass tones and slowly ebbing arpeggios, the bright melodies that lurk at the edges being overtaken by forlorn orchestration towards the end. Elsewhere, ‘Ki-Bou’ takes things off into more IDM-centred territory as twinkling bell-like tones and blocky analogue synths arc off slowly ebbing bass sequences, the dubbed-out delay effects that lurk in the background adding to the sense of hazy wonder, before ‘Ufer’ manages to inject a Princely sense of downtempo funk into proceedings as liquid bass runs and glimmering guitar inflections roll amidst a dewy backdrop of blurred-out pads.
If there’s one criticism to be made here, it’s that many of the tracks here play out a similar scenario, with many of them finessing subtle developments on a theme throughout rather than offering any sudden surprises or changes in direction. Thankfully, ‘Skorbut’ arrives with a change of pace, shifting the mood considerably as dark electro synths and gliding motorik rhythms rise into the focus, as the soft focus surfaces suddenly give way to cold jagged edges, before ‘Unruh’ closes things with a wander out into distantly pulsing house rhythms, soulful keys and murmuring bass runs. While it’s a slight pity that these inspired wanders off piste arrive so late here, there’s certainly still plenty here to delight fans of Vermont’s first album.