The Ectophile's Guide to Good Music, 2010 - by Anna-Maria Stjarnell
Daphne Lawless continues an impressively individual path with another record that's clearly as strange and rich as her previous ones. "Crowley in a previous life" is a typically skewed tale of a reincarnation of the English mystic. "Yonder lies the sea" is strangely quiet, but with a beguiling tune. The title track approaches an odd but satisfying sense of the epic with a tale told to a soft melody. The album ends with an old Leonard Cohen song rendered uniquely. It's a fitting finale.
express, 2010 January 13 - Hannah Jennings-Vojkovic
I liked Vostok Lake from the moment I read the band's own description of Small Group Psychosis - "thirteen cheerful pop songs about alienation, lust, insanity, and revenge"; gotta love a bit of Kiwi honesty, right? Vostok Lake are an Auckland-based "melodramatic electroclash" outfit, headed by singer-songwriter Daphne Lawless, who says Small Group Psychosis is the culmination of "seven years hard work and bashing my head against a brick wall". Lawless describes herself as a queer feminist, and many of the songs on the album reflect this. You've got to check out "Abomindation" - it's all about homophobia in the Destiny Church. Lawless says she loves Kate Bush, Gary Numan and Depeche Mode, and it's clear - Vostok Lake's jangly synths, electric drums and theatrical vocals are a fine nod to the electro pop and punk of the '80s. Small Group Psychosis is available through Random Static Music, or through www.vostoklake.org.
NZ Musician, 2010 Feb/Mar - by Bing Turkby
While it's no revelation to hear that a CD has been made without using a professional recording studio, it's still a bit of a novelty to have a performer insist on only using open-source software. Apparently the Weightless Music manifesto is all about the self-sufficiency of the composer/performer via portable computing. And while it can often be cool to use self-imposed limits to enhance your creativity, frankly it's all a little irrelevant to the listener, who is still going to judge the album on what it actually sounds like and whether it's interesting. In this case, the result is a trip back to '80s-era Pink Floyd/Depeche Mode, with lots of swirly keyboards, programmed drums and vocals in the style of 'melodramatic popular song' (as Vostok Lake themselves claim). It brings angsty visions of Alastair Riddell and Bowie, Kate Bush on downers, a not-quite-so-histrionic Roger Waters on The Final Cut. While the ethos is very punk, the resulting sound is very electro-pop.
Ce Acatl, 2010 October 26 - by Lawrence BurtonIt's probably fair to say that most artists strive for some degree of originality, some unique form of expression which defines them as doing something other than just recycling what somebody else did ten years ago with a lot more conviction. This is fine if you've got a massive budget that at least ensures you'll be heard, but more of a problem if you haven't and those few who hear you just think you're cute but a bit weird. I'm not talking in terms of bands who sample their own intestinal rumblings whilst quoting Yukio Mishima - there's plenty of outlets for that sort of thing. Vostok Lake are neither shocking nor bizarre, but neither do they have quite enough mainstream credentials to ensure an easy ride to commercial success, or at least getting heard by a great many people.
Vostok Lake is the vehicle of one Daphne Lawless - possibly New Zealand's best kept secret - and this is her fourth full length album. Previous sets have not been lacking in memorable tracks, but somehow (at least to these ears) it felt like the recordings never quite matched Daphne's aspirations. Here's where I should probably explain what she was doing and why it maybe didn't always come across so well as it could have done. The keyboards and percussion might suggest the Human League, but the layers of melody and the mathematically ornate compositions betray a Jethro Tull influence, all adding up to something that is maybe a bit Dresden Dolls, a bit Sisters of Mercy, a bit... sigh - no, it doesn't exactly sound like any of those things. It's easier to just acknowledge who Vostok Lake don't sound like - which is just about everybody else out there.
Anyway, so previous CDs have been so nearly there, but the combination of Soft Cell as progressive rock and Daphne's strong, almost operatic voice haven't quite blended into a seamless whole. But she's been at this a while now and GOOD FUCKING GOD this really is the one!
I've been playing nothing else since I first got this. It's not an immediate listen, but Lordy how it grows. With just a few careful studio tweaks, Vostok Lake have at last produced something which is carried by the sheer strength of the songs, and with that never having been an issue, this could easily be an album of the decade regardless of how many bods get to hear it. The melodies do that thing with the hairs on the back of the neck in all the right places, the synthetic bass lines remain warm and seductive, and the occasional vocal histrionics never fall flat - 'Yonder Lies The Sea', 'a dead thing' and the title track are in particular just beyond words, the sort of music that makes realise what you've been missing with just about every other CD you bought over the last decade. If you've ever totally lost it over Jethro Tull, Kate Bush, Split Enz (!), or any of those other names referenced above, then you seriously need to get a copy of this, though be warned that you shouldn't expect it to sound like any of them. Small Group Psychosis is far, far greater than the sum of it's parts.