A DJ duo with the soul of a rock band, Death in Vegas is an act that notoriously recycles, creating electronic-influenced patchworks—built from a mix of sampled sounds and original material—that fall safely within the tenets of existing subgenres. Their style has progressively evolved away from the baggy electronic of 1997’s Dead Elvis, but the persistently borrowed quality of their music has remained, something that continues, for better and worse, on Trans-Love Energies.
Despite their genre-hopping proclivities, Death in Vegas has proven much more adept at foraging and assembly than creating something truly innovative or original, which means their average album is an exercise in appropriation. It’s a method that’s often supplemented by the inclusion of well-known guest vocalists like Iggy Pop, Liam Gallagher, and Hope Sandoval. In this sense, they’ve developed a three-fold platform, sampling voices, sounds, and styles in service of a new musical product that still sounds noticeably old. On Trans-Love Energies, however, the only guest appearances are by unknown Austrian singer Katie Stelmanis, a choice that lends the songs a less recognizably derivative quality.
The album title, a reference to the Michigan White Panther commune spearheaded by Detroit rockers MC5, touches on familiar Death in Vegas fixations, from fringe elements of ‘60s-era America to ersatz political radicalism. This doesn’t come through much beyond song titles and some psychedelic rudiments, but the group’s acute focus on building immaculate sound collages makes the album possibly their best in years. “Your Loft My Acid” stretches out over seven languid minutes, growing from minimalist techno to a fuller atmosphere bolstered by Stelmanis’s ethereal voice, while “Scissors” is a breathy foray into modern electronica that slithers across a variety of textural surfaces.
The limitations that define Trans-Love Energies are just as readily apparent here as they are on any other Death in Vegas effort, but by buckling down on their sound and ridding the album of outside distractions, they come up with an enjoyably pure synthesis of what they’ve accomplished so far as a group. The album is a work that, if not conceptually adventurous, at least takes its recycling seriously.