As heavy and heady as it is hungrily ambitious
New York's Violens exhume art-rock's choicest skeletons and place fresh flesh on the bones. Despite its synthed-up sheen, Amoral is a frenetic album that at times sounds like early Roxy Music, Tears For Fears, MGMT and Klaxons are all playing at once. Self-produced and written by Miami-raised singer/guitarist Jorge Elbrecht, it's as heavy and heady as it is hungrily ambitious. They're half violins, half violence — if they don't woo you, they'll slay you with sheer force.
Previously known for his work with left-field art collective Lansing-Dreiden, Elbrecht is influenced by the movies of Lynch and Kubrick. This is most obvious on the creepy title track, in which spoken word (reminiscent of Vincent Price on "Thriller") unspools over Prog-Rock organs. Yet most of the album recalls '80s haircut bands, if they'd had rockets for spines. Stand-outs "Acid Reign," "Violent Sensation Descends" and "Could You Stand to Know?" reveal what would happen if A Flock of Seagulls grew talons and horns. The big bombastic sounds (keyboard drones, booming beats, crunching guitars) have a sinister undercurrent, uneasy and unsettling, as Elbrecht cries out his descriptions of hallucinations, nightmares and surreal psychedelic landscapes. If Amoral begins with euphoric, almost shrill optimism, it evolves into something darker, its visions as twisted and distorted as the sonics.
Having toured with MGMT and Bat For Lashes, Violens are a challenge to complacency. One minute they're raiding the neglected chambers of the New Romantics' past, the next whipping up an imaginary Ballardian future. They can do huge accommodating hooks, but then detour into avant-garde alleyways. Even the kiss-off track, "Generational Loss," wafts in as subtly as Air before collapsing into a snowstorm of white noise that might be My Bloody Valentine. Their demons and angels are at war and in love simultaneously. The moral of the story? A history of Violens has just begun.