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Wampire, ‘Curiosity’ – Album Review

A couple years back, Wampire were the first band on at a small show in Eagle Rock, Calif., that featured No Joy and Woods. For those that arrived early, Wampire made an impact, though less for what they played than for how they played it. The room was dark, save for colorful lights provided by the band, and as a fog machine pumped out an excessive amount of fog, Wampire performed a significant portion of the set while dancing around with the audience.

Probably. See, if that memory is what the mind produces when thinking back at that introduction of Wampire, what exactly happened is less important than the impression that remains.

‘Curiosity,’ the debut LP from the Portland, Ore.-based duo, functions in a similar manner, both for better and for worse. Compact and easy to digest at nine songs, the album doesn’t neatly fit into a genre or sound, though the production work from UMO’s Jake Portrait gives a solid hint, and the songs, though never weak or unengaging, don’t stick long in the brain after listening, either. But there is a spirit to the collection that points toward potential, and the band’s unique formula suggests they might establish a career, build a fan base and see their songwriting reach a level that matches their chemistry.

That’s not to say ‘Curiosity’ isn’t composed of quality material. It very much is. Opener and first single ‘The Hearse’ is propulsive in its up-tempo, organ-driven immediacy, building to a climax that sees singer Rocky Tinder’s voice breaking with desperation and intensity. It’s a captivating moment, but unfortunately, the momentum doesn’t return until a few songs later with psychedelic blaster ‘Giant.’ In between, laid-back lounge-y cuts ‘Orchards’ and ‘Spirit Forest’ paint a spooky-sexy world that is inviting in a half-serious, half-goofy sort of way, sort of like Dead Man’s Bones led by Ariel Pink.

At times, ‘Curiosity’ sounds like drugged-out absurdity (‘Outta Money’), pysch-garage for recent high school graduates and dropouts (‘I Can See Why’) and bedroom-project music (‘Magic Light’). Despite this range, the binding organ tracers give the collection a unified feel.

Unfortunately, Wampire don’t establish themselves as the type of band that does more than play in the crowd, improperly use a fog machine, incite a party and quickly fade from memory. ‘Curiosity’ is a perfect title because it causes exactly that — a note in the back of the mind to check out Wampire’s future endeavors.

That said, while a home run of a debut would have been nice, it’s often more effective to lay the foundation for future work, and Wampire have delivered a strong base to work with.

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