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.
There’s more to True than ethereal stylings, and its most remarkable moments are the twists given to the tried-and-true shoegaze formula. On “When to Let Go”, for example, the swirly haze exudes a ’60s girl group lushness, and “Watch the Streams” evokes the harmonized guitar pop of the same decade. The harmonized jangle of “Der Microarc” is downright cheerful as its bassline pulsates along. On “All Night Low”, fast-paced punk rhythms pummel with an intensity that agitates reverb-soaked guitars into a discordant frenzy. It’s a nightmarish spin on dream pop that brings True to its moment of climax.
Dream pop albums should evoke the trance-like state of the style’s namesake, and True manages this. Interlude “Lucent Caries” offers something completely different musically, as folksy guitar plucking steadily surrenders to an abyssal drone, like existence having a final moment before being pulled into the oblivion of a doomsday singularity. “Totally True” attempts to calm an increasingly nervous mood with those jangly guitars that carefully intertwine with whispered vocals throughout the album.
Despite the various moments of divergence on True, there is a musical uniformity that makes the album sound like a 45-minute multi-part song, a significant departure from Amoral, their disjointed but adventurous debut. Amoral is the kind of album a band would record to shed the shoegaze skin of a record like True, but Violens has reversed the process. The act of paring down the array of sounds from their debut dares the world to drop a convenient label on them. But none made sense the first time around, and the most obvious one for True doesn’t fit, so let’s just stick with “unpredictable.”
Essential Tracks: “All Night Low”, “When To Let Go”