It’s easy to argue that out of all the past decades of music, the 1980s gave us the most dated, shallow, and irrelevant material. So much of it felt so artificial and soulless because it replaced decent musicianship and songwriting with electronic, formulaic muzak. However, there were also plenty of good bands that crafted catchy melodies with dreamy guitar/synth walls of sound. It is in this latter tradition that Violens approach their work, and their newest offering, True, captures it expertly.
Formed in 2007, the trio of Iddo Arad (synths/guitar/vocals), Jorge Elbrecht (lead vocals/guitar), and Myles Matheny (bass/guitar/vocals) describe their influences as “descriptions of nightmares, the passing of time, [and] accounts of hallucinations.” While their blend of echoing harmonies and chaotic yet blissful production certainly isn’t ominous or dark, there is a sense of other-worldliness about it. Really, it’s like drifting between reality and fantasy—a sort of half consciousness. In any case, it’s a pleasant experience.
Within seconds of hearing opener (and single) “Totally True,” one can hear the influence of classic 80s bands like The Smiths, The Cure, and The Chameleons. Elbrecht sings wistfully as his bandmates sing countermelodies behind him and guitar lines and steady percussion dance around synth atmosphere. It’s a very immediate and localized introduction. “Der Microarc”’ succeeds because of its dense harmonies, while “When to Let Go” is centered on a simple but effective guitar riff and count time.
“Lavender Forces” is an apocalyptic interlude (so maybe there is a bit of evil after all) that’s sort of similar to Agalloch’s “The White Mountain on Which You Will Die.” The poppy hysteria continues on “Unfolding Black Wings,” though, and stays for the rest of the record. “All Night Low” is more hectic than most of the other songs, and “Watch the Streams” features one of the best arrangements on display. Album closer “So Hard to See” Is danceable and mechanical; actually, it’s probably the least interesting track on Violens.
Although Violens is a bit remarkable for capturing such a specific sound so well (and thus, satisfying many people’s nostalgia), as you might expect, its scope is a bit limited. The trio utilizes the same tones and mostly the same approaches throughout, resulting in only the smallest level of uniqueness for each track. Still, it accomplishes its ambitions, and if nothing else, it would be a fine soundtrack for a Bret Easton Ellis novel/film.