Review: Deap Vally – Sistrionix 2.0

Artwork for Deap Vally's Sistrionix 2.0 album

Whilst the originals could hardly be described as polished, there’s an energetic new vigour to Deap Vally’s reworkings.

Whether you used to play the clarinet at school or once bought a Yamaha CS-80 in attempting to sound like Boards Of Canada but gave up shortly after, everyone knows there are far more ex-musicians around than active ones.

Aptitude, economics or apathy take their share of casualties here, but so equally does life. In the beginning, when Julie Edwards (drums) and Lindsey Troy (geetar, screeches and howls) formed Deap Vally in 2011, they styled themselves as rock n’ roll hellions who gave primitive blues-rock a double x chromosome: women who played, partied and pissed off their critics hard.

The backstory was a little more benign however than at first sight; their name, they explained, wasn’t inspired by anything anatomical and their first meeting occurred when Edwards was teaching a crochet class (!) which Troy randomly walked into. Later, they would admit to bonding with Matt Bellamy over his love of knitting.

Signed to a major only a few weeks after their debut single I’m Gonna Make My Own Money was released in the summer of 2012, produced by Lars Stalfors (The Mars Volta) their maiden album Sistrionix arrived the following year.

Almost immediately after though the pair and their label diverged; asked to write with other people, they demurred, the beginning of a chain reaction which saw them dropped.

Hardly the first act whose refusal to play ball ended up with a Dear Jane email, the pair went on to deliver three further albums in Femijism (2016), Deap Lips (2020) and then the following year, Marriage. Towards the end of 2023 however, an announcement came stating that Deap Vally would be no more, largely because of changing circumstances, with Edwards and Taylor now mothers of two kids each, circumstances which made touring near impossible.

There was one last finger for the man to get, however. Deaf to negotiations, the band’s former paymasters at Universal still held the masters for their first album. With similar motivation as Taylor Swift in taking back control of their back catalogue, an option was picked up to re-record what was after all their own material in the hope they would actually receive some benefit. The result is Sistrionix 2.0.

Nods to the circumstances are thankfully minimal, with the exception of song titles now appended with ‘Deap Vally’s Version’, presumably for the lawyers. But whilst the originals could hardly be described as polished, there’s an energetic new vigour to the reworkings due in part to lacking the studio resources afforded a decade ago. This more bare bones process was, Troy described, simply as ‘quick and dirty style’.

This peeling back of the layers makes the cascade of gut-punching heft feel new again, from the hammering opener End Of The World, through Baby I Call Hell’s hair-shaking psychedelic freakery, to Six Feet Under’s woman scorned grindathon.

Also present are the token equivalents of the attitudes which drew them so much negative attention half-a-decade before Me Too was even a thing in the film industry. Each sounds riper now and more portentous, from Walk Of Shame’s give-a-fuck insolence to those who judge, Creeplife’s perv outing sass and Bad For My Body’s demented surf-rock will and testament.

That one contains the line, ‘If our mothers only knew/The trouble that we get into’, but life changes, shit happens and the wisdom gets handed down the line; some good, some from hard experiences.

Sistrionix 2.0 is Deap Vally’s retirement gift to themselves, the equivalent of a gold watch and some kind words. Your old boss might not like it either – which is all the more reason to play it to them loud.

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