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Violet Indiana
Choke EP
Bella Union

 


One always waits with great anticipation when a new band comprised of former members of one of your favorite bands releases a debut record. You often wonder "will it sound like the old band?" or "what kind of progressions/regressions will take place?" Often times you think, "will I even like the damn thing?" What makes this all the more heavy on you is when you have known that the EP is forthcoming, and you've even heard some of the stuff live. Such is the case of Violet Indiana. Comprised of former Cocteau Twins mastermind Robin Guthrie and Siobhan DeMare (formerly of Mono) one thinks that they've got it all sorted out, right? Well, yes and no. As you may have read in an interview with Guthrie in the last issue of Hybrid, there is a more "organic" sense of songwriting going on in the Violet Indiana camp, and believe it or not, it comes through loud and clear, even throughout all the ever apparent "Guthrie-isms" that abound on the record. That is not to say, though, that this record is a looser version of the Twins with a different singer. Violet Indiana certainly do their own thing.

"Purr La Perla" addresses this issue right off of the bat. You will notice in the first strums of Guthrie's guitar that he still has his "sound." Did you really expect that to change? What does change is the way that he uses it. The guitar retains a smokey quality that almost brings a jazz feel to the composition, and the subtle brushed drumming only aids the comparison. When DeMare comes into the picture, you are immediately transported back in time to a jazz club with the chanteuse on a sparsely lit stage, almost making love to the microphone as she embraces the lyrics with

her silky tone. She manages to massage every ounce of meaning from her heart-felt verses without working them too hard. If you don't swoon over this number, you've gotta be dead. You'll notice something different in "Busted"-probably the danciest beat to ever come out of the Guthrie camp. Imagine a slight stuttered beat-not quite hip-hop or trance beat-awash in that vibrantly textured guitar bath. They fill out the sound with large sweeping choruses that supplant the dance aspects

with a straightforward drum track and much more of the sweeping guitar action. DeMare tackles the vocal duties of the chorus with all the power and passion of her idols. Melody abounds and you become loopy in the grandeur. Do I dare say that this is more than worthy of being a smart pop single? The jazzy presentation returns for "Silent." This time, though, we get a bit more grit in Guthrie's guitar work. The new sound brings out a fullness that is equally juxtaposed with an inherent sparseness. It's a unique approach. Again DeMare conjures up the ghosts of Dusty Springfield and Billie Holiday and applies them with great care to Guthrie's guitar din. When "Torn Up" starts, you immediately start recalling images of the Twins. Those "classic" drum tracks and that lilting and effected guitar are trademarks of Guthrie, and you could feel cheated. But (and not to slight Elizabeth Fraser at all) as soon as DeMare's voice moves in, you realize that Fraser could never have sung it like this. It would have been an entirely different piece. DeMare's pop aided vocal styling brings out an entirely different perception of what a classic Guthrie progression

could be. Her melody meshes with the guitar work in a way that accents the structures inherent in Guthrie's style. You soon realize that Guthrie was no one trick pony, and this exploration of his root sound is more than welcome. Bravo!

So, if you feared that you'd be disappointed by this venture, think again. All the elements that you're used to hearing from Guthrie and company are all here-that very identifiable guitar, the thick, yet sparse production he is known for, and the solid songwriting. The only people that will be truly disappointed in this work are the folks who loved the Twins for Frasier's voice. To them, I say give DeMare's style a chance. This is not the Cocteau Twins fronted by another singer-it was not intended to be. Approach this record as if it was a different group-because it is! When

you do, you will find yourself playing this EP as many times as I have already and loving it more and more each time you play it. Next question: When do we get the long-player?

-tom topkoff

Track Listing:

  1. Purr La Perla
  2. Busted
  3. Silent
  4. Torn Up


Mike Doughty



Pink Floyd

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