Gothic Pop perfection
Die Milch’s 2013 debut Metronom demonstrated a confident hand at combining classical influences with more contemporary pop elements. There was a dynamic quality to compositions such as ‘Rosaria’ that managed to deliver effective melodies that stuck in your head for months at a time.
Their 2015 follow-up Imperial was a similar polished collection of songs that was cast in a similar template. But as an album, it also offered up more of a theatrical swing to Die Milch’s musical approach (particularly on the tracks such as ‘We R D.M’).
Die Milch is, essentially, the musical venture of Coco – a multi-talented musician who draws not just from classical music for influence, but also visual kei outfits, such as Malice Mizer. The baroque pop that Die Milch offer up also calls to mind the likes of Kanon Wakeshima, another artist who manages to combine these disparate elements into striking musical numbers.
With Die Milch’s third album Sinfonia there’s an adoption of the theatrical elements of Imperial as well as more of a focus on classical arrangements across the various compositions. The addition to Die Milch’s personnel of violinist Will Pampelmuse (also a mainstay of recent Die Milch live outings) lends the album a solid foundation of strings-driven numbers. It’s perhaps one of Die Milch’s strengths that founder Coco will cast around for musical collaborators on this basis to give interesting nuances to the various songs. For instance, Sinfonia also features arrangement input on some tracks from fellow gothic pop group Rose Noire and additional violin work from Robin Eggtart.
Opening track ‘Rose Partea～薔薇のお茶会～’ operates as an overture of sorts, an invigorating composition that combines charming harpsichord touches with brisk violin and robust cello flourishes. It’s an approach that also works well on the likes of ‘chaka chaka wonderland’ and ‘Babel’. In particular, Will’s stirring violin work on ‘Babel’ provides a perfect counterpoint to Coco’s driving piano delivery.
But Sinfonia still has some fine pop moments in its catalogue of songs – ‘tarantula’, for instance, is forged in more of a classic Die Milch style with spirited melodies and a quick-fire vocal delivery from Coco.
While much of Sinfonia leans to the dramatic, there’s also moments of wistfulness. The twilight fugue of ‘Last Dance’ is a more sedate composition with its plucked strings and Coco’s emotive vocal delivery front and centre. “Why do I dream of your grief?” offers Coco on a number that strikes out at themes of absence and longing.
There’s a meditative quality to ‘tintinnabuli 女神の遊び’ with its bell-like melodic tones contrasted against sober string arrangements.
Elsewhere, the album looks back at Die Milch’s Imperial phase with a reworking of ‘ミルクを飲むねずみを狙うねこ’ (which roughly translates as “the cat aims at the mouse drinking milk”). Subtitled as “Will’s version”, as with the original it’s more of a whimsical sketch with some rhythmic piano work from Coco. Towards the end, the melodies take on a more strident nature with engaging violin motifs and some captivating harpsichord work.
Meanwhile, ‘Gossip’ emerges as one of the album’s highlights. It’s song that erupts as a tour de force of stirring melodies, driving percussion and a powerful vocal from Coco. The lyrics play with ideas about gossip and perhaps the perils of dating someone within the public eye (“I don’t kiss and tell”). It calls to mind earlier Die Milch numbers such as ‘MaMa’ with its pulse-pounding delivery and shows that Die Milch can still rock your socks off with ease.
Album closer ‘Naughty Dolly’ is a whimsical toy box of delights. It’s a composition picked out by xylophone-esque melodies and charming effects and is a nice slice of pop confectionary to end the album on.
As with any Die Milch release, the album also comes in a fetching sleeve design with some visually engaging shots of Die Milch and friends clad in striking outfits (in this instance, pulling from the style box of Alice And The Pirates, Baby, The Stars Shine Bright and Atlier Pierrot).
Sinfonia is an accomplished album that delivers some superb baroque pop moments. It also demonstrates that Die Milch have a talent and confidence to rack up three albums of polished compositions – and suggests many more future albums await.
Sinfonia is out now and signed copies are available via Teatime treasures.
Thanks to Keren Oliphant.