Death By Chocolate: Bric-a-Brac

A cheeky collaborative project between vocalist Angela Tillett and multi-instrumentalists Jason Frederick and Jez Butler, Death By Chocolate's Bric-a-Brac is an aural scrapbook in more ways than one. The group's third full-length release, which squeezes fourteen songs into twenty-eight minutes, presents a carefree, gleeful world that should strongly appeal to lovers of early Broadcast, Stereolab, the experimental sounds of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and the swinging ‘60s. Electric pianos, analog synthesizers, acetone organs, and Fender telecaster guitars dominate the group's retro sound, which plays as if time stopped in 1967 and left its members overjoyed that it did so. The BBC-like DBC logo and time-worn television shown on the cover also reinforce the project's overall vibe.

The first two songs race by before you know it, before the gleeful, clap-happy title song lets the listener settle in for a little longer with “bits of this and bits of that / in my house of bric-a-brac” (a lamp, chair, toaster, candlesticks, a box of kids' magic tricks, a 7-inch single from Tears For Fears, a souvenir ruler from Hampton Court, etc.) On this blink-and-you'll-miss-it collection, there's no shortage of charm and imagination on display. “The Periodic Table,”  for example, offers a bright, synthesizer-laden chemistry lesson in the properties of Lithium, Manganese, and Xenon (with even their atomic numbers identified). A miniature exercise in kosmische musik (“Amstel Hotel - 1963”) forms a natural segueway into the spacey workout “Kosmonaut,” while the aggressive organ jam “My New Old Organ” leaps decades from some ‘60s California beachside to today. A hit single in waiting, “Bantam Motorbike” is the most Broadcast-like of the lot, with this one similar in style to the Broadcast documented on 2000's The Noise Made By People. In terms of song structure, style, and arrangement, the motorik “(Another) Day Out,” on the other hand, wouldn't sound out of place on a Stereolab album.

Naturally, different associations will spring to mind depending on the listener and his/her background; in my case, images of Lulu, Petula Clark, Herman's Hermits, "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey," and others welled up from some deep psychic reservoir. In “Bric-a-Brac,” Tillett likewise chirps, “Here in my world are pieces of memories, a moment in time just left behind,” a sentiment that could just as easily apply to this charming mini-album as a whole.

March 2012