The Vacant Lots: Endless Night (Metropolis Records)

US electro/psych duo return with re-tooled sound on synth-pop steeped second LP

Released Apr 21st, 2017 via Metropolis Records / By Richard Lewis
The Vacant Lots: Endless Night (Metropolis Records) Causing a stir with their debut LP Departure in 2014 (review), Vermont/NYC psych/electro duo The Vacant Lots return with their first new material since last Winter’s collaborative Berlin EP, produced by BJM figurehead Anton Newcombe. Swerving away from the first album’s synth bolstered psych/garage rock, Endless Night sees the pendulum swings firmly towards synthesizers, with a far greater emphasis on electronic textures.

Opening with a trio of short blasts that all clock in at under three minutes, Night Nurse, Pleasure and Pain and Elevation all showcase the duo’s move away from garage rock influences towards spiky synth pop. Parts of the disc evoke the tougher end of Depeche Mode’s catalogue, a band who, like the present group were highly influenced by NYC electro pioneers Suicide. One of the strongest cuts here Elevation is highly redolent of the groundbreaking Essex crew, to the extent the song would sit comfortably on the soundtrack to the band's 101 tourfilm.

Empty Space sees electronics whizz Brian MacFadyen make his mark with waves of sumptuous synth textures while vocalist Jared Artaud intones in preacher-like tones above it. Proving that they haven’t entirely abandoned their earlier sound, Forgotten Days combines a downbeat garage rock sashay overlaid with Air-style electronica. While Waiting Period is exactly that, an inconsequential filler, Dividing Light is a retooled version of Departure cut 6AM stripped of its febrile atmosphere and reshaped into something which lands nearer to the Velvet Underground at their most languid.

Concluding track Suicide Note features late vocalist Alan Vega who became something of a band mentor for the duo in fine voice over a gospel organ fugue and fuzzy guitar riff. While it might wrong-foot some of the psych voyagers who bought a ticket for their debut, repeated listens reveals Endless Night to be an impressive piece of sonic reupholstering of The Vacant Lots' sound.