Violens - True
So let's get those ugly comparisons out of the way. True sounds nothing like the Pale Saints or Souvlaki era Slowdive. And it certainly is nothing like the jangle pop of the Smiths or even Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. There is much more to it than that. As an album, it is more a coherent statement, musically and otherwise, than the sprawling cacophony which constituted Violens' debut Amoral. But the band have not settled down into a place where they feel comfortable and have certainly not lived up to the expectations of those who would seek to pigeonhole them.
As if to exemplify this, Violens have included a track on the album which defies comparison with anything else which sits alongside it. "Lucent Caries" is an instrumental which shifts and shimmers across the soundscape, with rhythm and key changes which require some listening before they can be identified as such. At first it just sounds disturbing and it is not until you have got over that, and isolated it from the rest of the album, that you can begin to discover its true intent. This is surely a track which is designed to throw off even the most avid of genre hunters.
The other eleven tracks are almost equally divided between a kind of ethereal, almost dream-pop and more out-front rock numbers. For example, "Watch the Streams" relies heavily on gentle harmonies which one finds more familiarity in vocals of past decades than in an album of 2012. "When to Let Go" has a deep soothing feel to it and carries an inkling of homage to the Ronettes and Martha and the Vandellas without actually sounding anything like them. (That probably won't make any sense unless you actually hear it).
If tracks like these have put you in a kind of relaxed mood, prepare for a shift. "Der Microarc" has a generously rhythmic quality about, led by the bass, and has a cheery danceability to it. Then again, "All Night Low" replaces pop rhythms with punk ones and guitar melodies with frenetic reverb. The opener, "Totally True" has the jangliest guitars, but the sound is nowhere near that of bands such as the Wedding Present or the Close Lobsters. Then again, "Very Melting Degree" has a sound which about as far away again as you could expect.
If you have reached this point and are totally confused about what expect, I wish I could offer some way out. The truth is, I am unsure as to whether this mélange of styles and sounds is a deliberate ploy to put some distance between themselves and the sort of standard synth-laden dream pop revival which seems to predominate at the moment, or whether it is all one big coincidence. The example of Amoral suggests both and it is as if Violens have decided to spread their music all over the place in a genuine effort to avoid getting bogged down.
There is plenty here to interest and intrigue you. Individual songs have qualities which make them worth listening to and even the obvious filler of "Lucent Caries" seems intended to convey something about what Violens are about. The problem is that, as an album, "True" is less than the sum of its parts. It is not an album you can get into in the sense that listening to it will give a sense of coherence or continuity. It is almost as if it were a compilation where one band was trying to provide its take on songs from a wide spectrum. In the end you can find yourself liking many of the songs while disliking the album.
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