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Venus Hum
The Colors In The Wheel
Nettwerk Records

Where has everyone been hiding Venus Hum? How have I led an even remotely fulfilling life thus far having never been graced by their musical brilliance until now? I could not help but think this from the moment I placed The Colors In The Wheel (the band's sophomore full-length release) in my CD player. I kept expecting to be disappointed, but my expectations were not met. The Colors In The Wheel is a great album, and that's all there is to it.

Venus Hum's sound captures the mystery and uniqueness of artists like Bjork and Esthero, with vocals similar to those of Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, and Imogen Heap (only without the latter's androgynous feel). However, one of vocalist Annette Strean's greatest strengths - which I believe in some ways surpasses the aforementioned singers - is the deliberation in her delivery. She is careful to whisper when the lyrics are timid and delicate, and let her voice resonate when the words call for confidence and fervor. While this is true for most experienced vocalists, I find it to be especially notable in Strean's vocals, which is part of the reason that listening to Venus Hum is such a spellbinding journey for the listener.

The first track, "Turn Me Around," contains heavenly textures that give the listener the sensation that they are floating high above the clouds with Strean's haunting, but hopeful vocals. In "Yes And No," which reminds me a bit of a Metric track, there is a dormant anger brewing beneath the surface of the song. You can hear it in Kip Kubin and Tony Miracle's digital instrumentation as well as Strean's vaguely seething vocals when she sings, "And so the story goes/Bite down until it hurts…There is a coal in my mouth/This volcano is going to blow…Darling, I can't handle the pressure." "Do You Want To Fight Me?" is a somewhat frantic number, not unlike the "frantic punches" being thrown by Strean's lover in the song's lyrics. The song has a choreographed frenzy to it, similar to a real-life fight, with the slow whistling solo in the middle of the song acting as the eye of the storm. The tracks on the record vary from the beautiful-but-radio-friendly "Birds And Fishes" to the peaceful "Genevieve's Wheel" to the intriguing "72 Degrees," which consists of mesmerizing vocal overlays, some snazzy keyboarding and two lovely a capella breaks. The record comes to a close with Strean's distant echo at the end of "Go To Sleep", a delightfully melodic lullaby. Lyrically, The Colors In The Wheel shifts between the decidedly blunt and the rather ambiguous. Songs like "Turn Me Around" and "Birds And Fishes" consist of symbolic themes surrounding nature, while "Yes And No," "Do You Want To Fight Me?" and the bubbly "Pink Champagne" deal directly with subjects of romance or conflict.

Venus Hum has discovered a way to engage all of the senses. It is not merely an auditory experience. While the album's cover art in itself is visually stimulating, Kubin and Miracle's keyboards also provide a divine visual backdrop for Strean's singing, which spans from euphoric to heart wrenching. Who needs hallucinogens when you can turn on a song like "Surgery In The Sky" and travel to the blissful planet of Venus Hum? Listening to The Colors In The Wheel is truly a full-body experience.

-Allegra Willis

Track Listing:
1. Turn Me Around
2. Untitled #1
3. Yes And No
4. Untitled #2
5. Birds And Fishes
6. Do You Want To Fight Me?
7. Genevieve's Wheel
8. You Break Me Down
9. Untitled #3
10. Surgery In The Sky
11. Pink Champagne
12. 72 Degrees
13. Untitled #4
14. Go To Sleep

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