Violens True

[Slumberland; 2012]

Styles: 60s into 80s into 90s, jangle pop, indie rock, post-punk
Others: Sarah Records, Male Bonding, The Zombies, Prefab Sprout, Lansig-Dreiden

“Ambition aspires to descend,” opined 17th-century tragedian Pierre Corneille, and from the start, Violens have demonstrated their interest in both descent and the fact that they prefer confusion to boredom. All of this is apparent on True. For the first third of the album, we’re treated to straight-up, crystalline, and rather beautiful — though not necessarily deeply memorable — jangle pop, featuring Jorge Elbrecht’s high, luscious vocals. There’s nothing here that so sheerly encompasses the tragi-gorgeous indie nexus as earlier tunes “Already Over” or “Spectator and Pupil,” though “When To Let Go” comes close. This sound — echoing its influences in 60s harmony pop, but emerging particularly from the English indie/twee scene of the 80s — has always occupied a spot of tension between lo-fi, proto-shoegazy guitars, and bright, bittersweet clarity. Violens eschew the former for the latter.

Then for something completely different, we hit “Every Melting Degree,” with its powerful guitar riffs, and suddenly we’re into a rock-ier territory more reminiscent of fast-chugging, Male Bonding-esque 90s indie revival. To be honest, your humble scribe didn’t like it on MB’s last LP, 2011’s Endless Now, and he doesn’t like it here, though this may be simply a question of genre taste. But wait — in case you thought you had the measure of True, this now becomes interspersed with rumbling, dark, and amorphous instrumental interludes (“Lavender Forces”) and guitar lines constantly key-shifted (“Lucent Caries”), before a return on the final tracks to the sound to which we were first introduced.

The decision to order the album thus, rather than to take the more typical path of interspersing different genre moments throughout, is an interesting one, as is the integration of these diverse styles, which, even in an age of postmodern recombinatorics become batshit boring, is an unusual array. This is a trajectoral development, in that Violens’ intention to engage in this way was evident on their first LP, 2010’s Amoral, and I do tip my lid to the originality and potential of their project. Nonetheless, like Corneille’s Le Cid, Violens do not respect the Aristotelian classical unities of time, place, and action. But like Cardinal Richelieu, I’m not convinced.

Links: Violens - Slumberland

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