The story of Death Has No Dominion exists within their music. It is not a story that begins with the phrase “once upon a time” and it does not unfold chronologically. It is implacable, built on atmosphere and emotional heft rather than centered on actual fact. If you listen closely, you can hear it, the tale of two musicians who found an inherent and inspirational connection in the juxtaposition of themselves.
Rasmus Bak and Bjarke Niemann are the two musicians. They have known each other for a certain amount of time. They are both from the same place, but the exact location of that place is not relevant to this story. In the fall, some time ago, the two musicians went to upstate New York to stay in a black house once owned by Willem Dafoe. It is called the Rubber House and among its many strange features is a gigantic dance room. Rasmus and Bjarke drank a lot of wine in the house and they made a lot of music.
On the first night they wrote a song called “Poughkeepsie Exit,” a delicate, acoustic number that reveals a moody, intimate vibe. It opened their eyes to what this partnership could yield. They wrote more songs. They were interested in how a pair of ukuleles could manifest a soaring, quietly significant sound so unlike the instrument’s usual aesthetic. There are very few preconceived notions about the ukulele. The musicians felt liberated from prescribed ways of playing and creating. There was nothing in their minds except the collaboration founded in each new moment. They were centered on the idea of a new dawn. It is an idea that found its way into everything they made after that. Things were not the same when Rasmus and Bjarke came back from that place.
The duo met regularly in the studio, writing a new song every time they came together. There were many songs, recorded in Los Angeles, Copenhagen and New York. Some of the songs became an album they named after themselves. The first track, “Harvest,” set the tone for what followed, and each song constructed a visceral atmosphere of sound infused with emotive resonance. “Come In Like A Hurricane,” a propulsive, ambient number, opened the possibilities of that sound space. Those two numbers, along with “Poughkeepsie Exit,” are the key elements of the story.
Death Has No Dominion is a new dawn itself, in some ways. It represents a new means of artistic creation, of going with the flow and accepting whatever emerges. It is about a pureness of energy and an emphasis on the significance simplicity can yield. It is something you can hear in every note that is played, and it is also something that is present in the silent spaces between the notes. That is the story of the band. You must listen to fully understand it.