Violens – Amoral

On November 7, 2010, in Alternative, New Wave, Review, Rock, by Miguel Rodriguez
Artist: Violens
Album: Amoral
Producer: Jorge Elbrecht
Label: Static Recital
Release: 2 November 2010

Rating: 8.1 RockRolls
 
 
If you've yet to hear NYC-based Violens, you're missing out. Currently on an international tour the trio defies classification, riding the line between the new New Wavers and the old Psychopop shakers. Despite being formed in 2007, Amoral is their first, full-length, studio album (they released their self-titled EP in 2008). Yet even without a large library of music behind them, the group has found plenty of extra studio time remixing The Very Best and MGMT tracks, and after a series of seasonal mixtapes, they find themselves dead-center in the spotlight with their much-anticipated album release.
Amoral's tone can be described much like the Flaming Lips gone New Wave. While each track possesses its own unique style, the album features prominent guitar work over a mash-up of Siouxsie And The Banshee stylings shoved inside a Cocteau Twins album. The record is filled with upbeat rhythm patterns and infectious choruses that will not quit the memory. The album mood often switches from the carefree to the haunting and unsettling in an instant but all the while maintaining order in the album's loose fluidity. What Violens has created with Amoral is an elaborate and reaching framework of musical branches upon which they are not afraid to extend.

With catchiness that rivals influenza, Amoral opens on a thumping bass line followed by a bright, twangy guitar lick marking the majority of the first track, "The Dawn Of Your Happiness Is Rising." With vocals matching the tone of the track's name one could easily dismiss it as hippiepop, but Violens is far from being that simple. The synth work and lead guitar over the second half of the track really set the pace for the dichotomy that is Amoral.

On one end of the spectrum, Violens presents a vocal-centered menagerie of the classic and the whimsical. "Violent Sensation Descends" bombards sensibility with the love child of 60's lyrical meoldy and demented organ mashing—not that there's anything wrong with that. The lighthearted, playful lyrics dance around the chaotic synth organ in wicked innocence while a wispy backing guitar and synth track completes the trifecta of musical anomaly. Alongside it, "Could You Stand To Know?" evokes feelings of a classic protest song of an era that doesn't exist where these songs make sense. Bold and quietly powerful, listen for acoustic sing-along versions of this one playing in the quad at your local university or at liberal rallies.

Crossing the gamut of musical expression on the album, "Acid Reign" brings an immediate dance groove with a bass line that begs the body to move. Masters of turning noise into music, Violens serves up a synth lead whose dissonance fits more than it stands out on the track. Coupled with haunting but prominent vocals that feel like a pumped up Diogenes Club, "Acid Reign" climbs the ladder to be the standout single on the record. The pure, New Wave offering "Until Its Unlit" offers the same dance feeling paired with layered, apparitional voices ripped straight from an early 80s movie. Hidden track on the Donnie Darko soundtrack, perhaps?

The neo-psychedelic "Are You Still In The Illusion?" slows down the album's pace with a dirty, funky rock organ that trods along punching out an even rhythm while a sexy sax cries its sad, brass tears. The atmosphere is so grungy and seedy, you can almost smell clove cigarettes at the end of each musical phrase. Despite the slowdown, the piece doesn't adversely affect the flow of the mix, despite coming fairly early in the album. If anything does, the title track, "Amoral" stands out in the otherwise upbeat lineup. Out of nowhere cheesy, gothic moodiness and a cliché, creepy 'B' Movie chord progression infiltrates the mood awkwardly for one minute and fifty-five seconds of questionable choices. The final two tracks close out the album without incident and the last track "Generational Loss" is a vocal shout-out to the chorus of "Acid Reign."

The album ends on a tapestry of fingerstyle electric guitar and warm waves of synthesized harmony that fade first to distorted noise and then on to the sound of rain and streams, fusing the noise of the natural world with the noise of the world of Violens. It is indeed a world one should visit often.

8.1 RockRolls
 

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