DIE MILCH – Imperial

The Gothic Pop outfit enter their Imperial Phase…

Die Milch surprised everyone with the release of debut album Metronom in 2013, demonstrating a remarkably effective baroque pop approach. Now comes their new album Imperial – a stylish collection of songs that manages to continue the themes of Metronom, while also managing to play with new elements and ideas.

With Die Milch’s musical style drawing heavily on classical influences, while maintaining a contemporary approach, its easy to draw comparisons with the likes of Malice Mizer. Founder-member Coco has previously cited the visual kei masters as an influence on the style of Die Milch – and certainly there is a similar nod to classical styles and theatrical embellishments for live performances, but Die Milch have somehow sidestepped much of the rock elements that underlay visual kei to produce something quite unique and yet familiar and evocative.

As with their debut, Imperial is heralded with a brief intro piece. In this case the bell-like melody of the enigmatically titled ‘Brain Bells’ which segues to a lonely church bell chiming. After that, things step up a gear as ‘Yes or No’ manages to convey a sinister intent with its insistent string rhythms, including a strident violin and an emphatic vocal from Coco.

The album then switches gear for two instrumental pieces, including the broody ‘sad~’ whose centrepiece is an evocative violin performance (courtesy of long-term musical collaborator Yui).

‘~A world without you~’ is pure music confectionery, with its plucked strings and Coco’s impassioned vocals. It also employs subtle but effective electronic treatment on some of the vocal parts of the song, which keeps things interesting and suggests that Die Milch will always be ready to offer up some musical surprises.

We’ve previously spoken on J-Pop Go about ‘MaMa’ as one of Die Milch’s secret weapons, its driving rhythms and aggressive strings create a percussive tune that’s a popular live number, but also one that fits in seamlessly with the rest of the material on Imperial. Meanwhile, ‘~Prince only for me~’ is a more sedate affair with its piano melodies and soulful cello elements.

‘Go! Lolita’ could almost be the Gothic Lolita anthem with its marching rhythms and inspired use of treated vocals. At times it recalls the styles of Sekai No Owari (particularly ‘RPG’) with its military-style percussion and vocal effects. “Go!” sings an enthusiastic Coco, “Lolita!” on this piece which is clearly one of the standout moments of Imperial.

Another popular live song, ‘We R D.M’ gets its first studio recording here – and it’s a delight of upbeat organ melodies and tight percussion. ‘fear…’ , another live standard (and previously issued on the ‘MaMa’ CD release) is an instrumental tour de force of frentic harpsichord rhythms and relentless string melodies. It’s a broody and melancholic piece that’s as theatrical as it is musical.

‘Toi Ki’ manages to weave in a broad variety of musical styles, from pure electronica through to the wistful plucked notes of a koto. The whole affair is pulled together by Coco’s powerful vocal style and it delivers a fitting end piece to Imperial’s majestic ensemble.

Imperial demonstrates that Die Milch are keen to experiment with production ideas and musical techniques (such as on ‘~A world without you~’ and ‘Go Lolita’), but continue their strong suit of combining electronic music with classical influences. The end result is a sterling follow-up to Metronom and the emergence of Gothic Lolita as a music genre in its own right.

IMPERIAL is out now and available to purchase directly from the J-Pop Go online shop. Both Metronom and Mama are also available.

DIE MILCH are performing this coming Sunday 19th July 2015 at The Islington, 1 Tolpuddle Street, Angel N1 0XT (nearest tube Angel). Support from Scarlett Young.

Tickets are £8 Adv/£10 Door. Tickets available via: http://www.seetickets.com/event/die-milch/the-islington/890201