Release Date: May 15, 2012
Record label: Slumberland
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival, Neo-Psychedelia
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.
After a year of releasing a song a month on their website, N.Y.C. quartet Violens could be excused for having nothing left when it came time for their second album. Luckily for fans of the hazy, hooky style of retro-gaze noise pop, they have plenty left in the tank on 2012's True. The album is full of songs that take up residence in your head, reaching far beyond the surface and digging in deep.
This Brooklyn-based trio needed only a year and a half to switch from the ’80s new wave that permeated its 2010 debut, Amoral, to the sweeping, ethereal combo of ’90s shoegaze and laid-back ’60s pop on follow-up True. The band also made the move to Slumberland Records—fitting, based on name alone. Lead single “Totally True”—the record’s loveliest moment, with silky vocals and the soothing jangle of guitar—offers up the same hypnotic daze brought on by a carefree doze under the spring sun.
Hazy synth-pop trios may be a dime a dozen, but there’s something really special when an album like Violens’ True finds its way into the world. From the very first note of the Brooklyn-based band’s sophomore LP, it’s clear that the album isn’t messing around. Through carefree crescendos and poignant harmonies, the album stays true to its roots, but in a more constructed manner, most notably in the opener “Totally True” and the distorted “Every Melting Degree.” Drawing comparisons to Phoenix and a heavier Antlers would be easy, but there is a certain dynamic that pushes Violens towards a more garage-based sound than the new wave, dreampop bands that have piled up high in 2012.
Violens are adept at shape-shifting appropriation. The NYC band's lead singer, Jorge Elbrecht, was a founding member of the now-dormant "art collective" Lansing-Dreiden, who last signed off full-length-wise with 2006's murky, equally new wave and OMD-worshipping The Dividing Island. Violens' 2010 debut, Amoral, ditched the shadows and fog for pop-rock bounce and Boo Radleys impressions that were impressively faithful, if not totally memorable.
“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.
Early press for Violens’ sophomore album, True, has drawn comparisons to early ’90s UK acts such as Pale Saints and Ride. Although the shoegaze comparisons will guarantee that some of the genre’s fetishists will check out the record, such labeling really is a disservice. While True is more focused than their all-over-the-place debut, Amoral, it still continues the Brooklyn trio’s tradition of defying classification.
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.