Posted on June 12th, 2014 (1:00 pm) by Travis Boyer

The ukulele is not an instrument that one thinks of a powerhouse of melody. However, don’t tell Rasmus Bak and Bjarke Niemann of the folk duo, Death Has No Dominion, that the diminutive stringed instrument cannot hold its own as the focal point of an entire record. The dynamic Danes from Copenhagen manipulate the ukulele’s range and overall melodic impact in their self-titled debut.

Bak and Niemann bought a black house in upstate New York that was once owned by actor Willem Dafoe. On their first night in their new home, the longtime friends brightened up their gothic abode with the cheery plucks of their ukuleles. It was that night the song “Poughkeepsie Exit” was born. “Poughkeepsie Exit” is representative of what the friends have accomplished with this record, a big sound propped up by a pair of ukuleles. “Poughkeepsie Exit” evolves from ukulele duel to a resonating sound that is as haunting as their residence. This cut is a prime example of how the duo is able to transform a wimpy instrument into a strong, vital piece of a much larger sound. Where nothing was expected, in the case of the ukulele, Death Has No Dominion astounds with a pleasantly surprising bonus.

The pins and needles effect of the opening track, “Harvest,” is spellbinding. Not for a second do Bak and Niemann let up, sending chills down the spine with their continuous ukulele pluck-a-thon. The pair’s howling and humming vocals affect an ethereal ambience that complete the overall sense of otherworldly presence.

“Uproar In Heaven” takes the ambience factor to a whole other level. It is the epitome of ethereal delight; trancy with each distorted pluck bouncing through the ether. There are, literally, no words, just more ukulele exhibition.

The next step up in the ukulele experimentation is the edgiest track on the record, “Coming Like A Hurricane.” Here the ukulele meets the electric guitar and a driving percussion to push the envelope once again. What starts out as a simple, hollow ukulele solo echoing off the walls transforms into a complex mix of after effects that do not detract from the simplicity of the headlining instrument on the Death Has No Dominion. Not to be outdone, “Out Of Your Mind” picks up where the previous track left off with a kicky percussive number. Both tracks show that, in the hands of Bak and Niemann, the ukulele is not always second fiddle to its more prominent counterparts.

Bak and Niemann are not a niche folk act as their choice of instrument might suggest. The duo plays the ukulele, but it does not define them. They are more than adept as musicians to get the most out of the ukulele while creating a greater ambience through their other techniques. Death Has No Dominion are of a domain all by themselves and it suits them just fine.

Track List:

  1. Harvest
  2. Monkey Island
  3. Reaching The Shore
  4. Uproar In Heaven
  5. Poughkeepsie Exit
  6. May Your House Be Safe From Tigers
  7. Coming Like A Hurricane
  8. Out Of Your Mind
  9. No Return
  10. Daybreak Olympics
Death Has No Dominion self titled
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

70 / 100
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