May 15, 2012 Web Exclusive
At first listen, a Violens tune can be hard to grab onto. Bat away layers and layers of silky atmosphere, burrow down to some primordial pop nugget, and it spirals off in an unexpected direction, not taking the frictionless path. It's heady, with dense production and disparate reference points/intentions that coexist somewhat precariously; they form a house of cards blueprinted by explosive and atmospheric '90s shoegaze, chorus-soaked '80s pop, and reverbed-out '60s psych.
Historically, both with Violens and Jorge Elbrecht's previous band/art company Lansing-Dreiden, reviewers have seemed reluctant to dig through that mess, quickly assigning the group to some overarching '80s revival or barking about that whole "art company" thing. This prevented them from giving the records sufficient spins: Elbrecht and crew were crafting some truly adventurous, scene-ignoring pop. True, then, may mark that point when the group has stripped away enough of the artifice to concentrate on the tunes, and the zeitgeist has caught up. It also marks the point where Lansing-Dreiden favorers can give Violens their due. They've found their stride—really completed the vision—here.
The almost-title track "Totally True" is a knockout, marching along with chorused guitar and a monster hook. "When to Let Go" has sneaky mini-hooks that infiltrate the brain, then a simple turn of phrase and skip up to falsetto before the chorus hits, with an unexpected resolve (Elbrecht's a wonderful melody writer). "Sariza Spring" is perfect downtempo '60s pop, slinking along on minor melodies, a wash of guitars, and long sing-songy phrases-a walk in the park (commencing with bird chirps, no less). "Lavender Forces," a foreboding drone, marks the midway point, after which the distortion pedals are kicked on and you get some heavier fare: "Unfolding Black Wings" is a not-so-subtle shout-out to Daydream Nation, with its Steve Shelley beat and discordant guitars.
One could really call out any of the 12 tracks presented here, just passing on the news as each of them reveals itself. True, it can take a solid three listens to access, but the payoff's golden. Do the work. (www.violens.net)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 9/10
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