Death In Vegas is the invention of Brit multi-instrumentalist Richard Fearless. Steve Hillier helped him deliver his debut album, Dead Elvis (Concrete, 1998), a concoction of dub, rock, techno and ambient which bridged the genres in a way that few musicians had ever attempted (the American version has more tracks). While lacking the homicidal fury of Tackhead, there were similarities. Fearless' music was no less uncompromising and no less amoebic. His "technological" roots seemed to be in Detroit techno and Jamaican reggae, both genres that allow for a lot of free will in administering sound to the masses.
The album is amazingly diverse, the tracks sharing only one rule: no track should sound like the other, and no track should belong to only one genre. it begins with the subdued blues chanting of All That Glitters, underlined by Hendrix-ian guitar, jazzy keyboards, flat drumming, fat bass and neurotic noises.
The heavily reverbed dub-fest of Opium Shuffle magically evokes alien electronic hisses and a gentle medieval flute.
The joyful reggae dance of GBH is propelled by a powerful and catchy gospel keyboard riff and by the singer's mad hiccups. The follow-up reggae novelty, Twist And Crawl, sounds like a parody of the rhythm and blues standard Twist And Shout, but the repetition of the main theme (over a fractured organ line and frantic percussions) achieves a mantric quality.
The singles themselves that revelead Death In Vegas are completely different. The epic grooves of Dirt (thanks to a monster guitar riff) and Rocco (hammering drum'n'bass, wildly psychedelic guitar licks) seem to come from two different bands.
The instrumental second half of the album is, in turn, a completely different album, and possibly a better one, while no less eclectic. The futuristic chirping of Rekkit leads into the western melody of I Spy (that could have been on a Morricone soundtrack) which is followed by the ambient/trippy abstract electronic music of Amber and by the heavily syncopated reggae march of Rematerialised.
While the first album was composed during Fearless' spare time, The Contino Sessions (Concrete, 1999) are a more ambitious affair, which developed over nine months of full-time work with his now cohort, sound engineer Tim Holmes. A few guests of honor lend their precious larynges to Fearless and Holmes instrumental melanges. Fearless retracts much of Dead Elvis, an album which was also a revolutionary manifesto, and digs deep into two novel sources of inspiration, one no less extreme than the other: late psychedelic bands of the 1960s, such as the Stooges, and German avantgarde-rock of the 1970s, such as Can. If one could mix the Stooges and Can with a hip hop beat, the result would sound very much like Come Down Easy. Hyperkinetic tracks such as Aladdin's Story and Neptune City lean, instead, towards the Chemical Brothers' sound.
The spoken narratives of Aisha and Broken Little Sister highlight a more mature side of Fearless' personality, a knack for rummaging the psyche in the tradition of Jim Morrison, and make this album a much more personal, private statement than Dead Elvis' public exhibition.
Following the album, the band has created several art installations around the world, very much inspired by Andy Warhol's work with the Velvet Underground.