Vienna Ditto dip into a fifties femme fatale mood for new EP Ticks

With EP ‘Ticks’, Oxford-based duo Vienna Ditto certainly cover a number of genres. The unifying theme seems to be a kind of 50s/60s sound, but within this remit there are styles as diverse as blues, swing, beat poetry and psychedelia. The result is that some tracks are more successful than others; it is after all impossible to be good at everything.

When Vienna Ditto get it right they are definitely interesting. The second track on the EP, ‘Tiny Tambourine’s, melds Hatty Taylor’s smouldering vocals with a murky bass line and a syncopated high hat beat. The result is a kind of noir themed trip-hop track. The lyrics are just the right side of elliptical to be intriguing without being entirely obtuse: “A ghost applies the human form, to my fate I am resigned if I’m to haunt forever more. Would you take me as I am?”

Unfortunately the song that follows, ‘Frank Account’ is not so successful. The metaphor of a bank account for a relationship is perhaps not the most interesting one, they take a dig at banking and bankers but the exact message is not clear. Maybe it is also because electro-swing has had its day- and this is the genre they most closely adhere to here- the song feels a bit full and cluttered, there are too many ideas- both musical and lyrical that are vying for attention.

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‘Motherless Child’ is a fairly straight up blues number that shows off the voice of Hatty well. It is also backed up with a Shadows-style guitar line that pleasantly twangs into the mist. It is well controlled and musical, electronic fuzz bleeds out of the vocal suggesting nod to Portishead. Track 6, a cover of blues staple, ‘Go Down Moses’ would fare well if the restraint shown in ‘Motherless Child’ was used- the fast swing beat detracts from the soulful tune.

The other two tracks of the album, track five ‘My Way of Missing You’ and ‘Come Back’ use the full array of paints on the pallet to better effect. They both involve dubby synths below a sci-fi surf feel. The lyrics again tread that nice line of poetic and pointed. ‘My Way of Missing You’ suggests a not-so-healthy but sultry relationship “That’s the way it goes, I can’t forget and you can’t remember” fit well with the space noises and distant jazz flute. It builds to an almost Jefferson Airplane level of psychedelia towards the end of the song. The final track, ‘Come Back’ starts with a mash of mechanical rhythmic synth “When you’re hungry you’ll come back home to me” sings Hatty in the break. Other instruments pierce the crunch such as organ and that fifties guitar complete with wail. The train sound in the middle of the break dissolves into a prog breakdown that works to up the drama and end on a crescendo.

Ticks’ is certainly good in parts- the troubled fifties femme fatale works best for the vocals and lyrics. Likewise the melding of dub, surf rock with a good smatter of spacey effects and prog is effective. However the blues and electro swing seem almost too basic for what this group can accomplish.

‘Ticks’ is out now via Ubiquity Project Recordings.

This Vienna Ditto article was written by Fraisia Dunn, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson.

Vienna Ditto 'Ticks'- EP REVIEW

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