One of a coterie of great Liverpool bands struggling for recognition during the mid-to-late 1980s, The Da Vincis should never have slipped through the cracks. Yet despite a great mini-LP, ‘Eating Gifted Children’, a couple of corking singles and the inevitable John Peel sessions, the band never received their due.
To their credit, Cherry Red Records recently acknowledged The Da Vincis’ legacy, shoehorning their still bracing ‘When You’re In’ onto CD5 of their about-to-be-released Liverpool box set, ‘Revolutionary Spirit’. The band’s ex-bassist, Chris Stevens, also rejoined the fray in recent years, sculpting several great unsung records with two stalwart local roots-rock outfits, Rattlebus and Mudcat Landing.
Hearteningly, The Delian Pool is another fresh project concerning a former Da Vinci, in this case guitarist Martin Ward who has teamed up with bassist/ electronica wizard Kevin Downey to create some startling new noise.
Trading on past glories is clearly not an issue here. Describing themselves as simply “a two-piece band from The Wirral in the UK” (albeit adding the enigmatic codicil, “periodically, we are allowed to interact with other people”), the band’s Facebook page gives little away and neither does their name. In pre-AD times, the Delian League was an association of Greek city states whose purpose was to continue fighting for the Persian Empire, but it’s unlikely that ancient historical nugget cuts much ice here.
Probably the whole point of the exercise is for the band to keep their audience guessing, for their eponymously-titled debut LP is something of a tabula rasa for Martin Ward. Aside from the aggressive ‘Ogle Overwhelmed’ and the infectious ‘Zurich Tzara Zeal’, his electric guitar is employed sparingly and anyone about to enter here expecting anthemic rock’n’roll will need to park their prejudices at the door.
Spiritually, at least, ‘The Delian Pool’ is actually a lot closer to the output of pioneering post-punk Wirral-based antecedents such as Dalek I Love You. Downey’s moody synth washes and Ward’s dark, commanding croon are to the fore on early tracks such as ‘Berners Folly’ and the surreal ‘Captain’s Table’ (“seaweed sandwiches for able seamen”), while the duo build a hypnotic, krautrock-style groove on the lithe, seven-minute ‘Dreamscapegoats’.
Elsewhere, they veer off at fascinating tangents on tracks such as ‘Leaves’ – a stark, mystery-coated ballad with lowing strings – and the tongue-twisting ‘Itisasitis’ (sic), which apparently addresses the relentless pace of modern day life (“no room to roam for you and me”) over pared-back beats and a burrowing bassline. Perhaps best of all is the closing ‘Subterrania’: a voyeuristically creepy, Tales Of The Unexpected-style workout (“what’s beneath the floorboards? A hidden mystery crypt…to hide the remains of servants…”) which plays out over droning ambience and chilly atmospherics.
Regardless of modern fads and fashions, then, this is a finely-tuned debut album, laced with sleek pop, weird electronica and rife with intrigue. Where Messrs. Ward and Downey take it from here is anyone’s guess, but I believe they’ll retain the element of surprise for in ‘The Delian Pool’ it seems still waters really do run deep.
The Delian Pool Facebook page