Pop Addict: Violens’ Amoral

Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.

Violens: Amoral

Violens: Amoral (Static Recital, 11/9/10)

Violens: “Acid Reign”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Violens-Acid-Reign-Digital-Album-Version.mp3|titles=Violens: “Acid Reign”]

From the start of its debut LP, Amoral, Violens‘ strength is clear: revitalizing and embellishing 1980s-inspired new-wave pop.

By rejecting the raw, lo-fi approach so prevalent today in independent music and the all-too-common reverb-drenched sound, this NYC indie group sticks with what it knows best: clean, unabashed, dance rock. Even with the band’s overt arsenal of sounds — outer-space keyboards, calculated drumming, pop-driven bass lines, blissful resonating vocals, and fuzzed-out guitars — Amoral‘s production lets the band’s sound come off as tight and polished.

The album gets off to a running start with catchy hooks and over-the-top choruses, roping in listeners with upbeat tempos, solid arrangements, and sonic diversity. The clear-cut production lends itself to Violens’ sounds: vast and epic. And that’s when Violens is at its best — when it’s churning out full-throttle melodies of epic proportions.

In going with a bigger sound, the majority of Amoral isn’t really interested in subtlety at all; surprisingly, though, it works better than one might expect. Standout track “Acid Reign” is the culmination of everything going right, with relentless instrumentation and nonstop action.

Furthermore, the album — particularly on songs like “Are You Still An Illusion” and “It Couldn’t Be Perceived” — showcases a cache of musical elements recalling everyone from the Human League to more modern synth-pop masters like M83. Rarely does the band stray from its formula of close-knit time signatures and big choruses—motifs that are recurrent throughout Amoral and work to the band’s advantage.

But though the album’s sound is expansive, featuring a wide berth of sounds crammed into every track, Amoral allows for more delicate moments (mindful lyrics and sophisticated, hook-laden melodies) to shine through the album’s ambition. There are even moments where Violens abandons this notion of cleanliness of sound. For instance, “Full Collision,” a standout dance-pop track, ends in an avalanche of static and feedback; “Could You Stand To Know” sounds like something penned and performed by one of Violens’ postmodern indie contemporaries; and the title track feels like another band entirely, mixing spoken-word elements with oddly structured arrangements.

But what works best for Violens isn’t experimenting — it’s when Violens channels new-wave elements and adds its own textures and ornamentation, crafting solid song structures with catchy arrangements and euphoric sounds. This isn’t in accordance with much of the indie community these days, but by going against the grain, Amoral stands out. In doing so, Violens provides new wave with an edge that it rarely sees, giving the genre a fresh, polished sound.

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