There is something uniquely disappointing in seeing a film and realising the best bits were in the trailer. The film might still be decent enough, it may have other enjoyable moments, but the highlights, whether representative of the film or not, were all squeezed into a 60-second teaser. And then you wonder why you shelled out the cash to see it in the first place.
Back in August, Violens released the lead single for their debut full length Amoral as a free MP3 across various blogs. 'Acid Reign' is a furious, not-quite pop song, pulled back from the brink by unresolved cadence in the chorus. It sounds like something off of Get Ready-era New Order (and vocalist Jorge Elbrecht does sound uncannily like Bernard Sumner on this track).
It’s a mixed blessing that 'Acid Reign' is the best track here. On the one hand, you’ve already experienced the album’s best moments before you hear the opening track. On the other hand, it really is a damn good song. It would be a difficult standard to match, and unfortunately nothing has the same focus or feeling of completion as the aforementioned lead single.
But looking back further, the highlights of Amoral were available long ahead of the album: 'Violent Sensation Descends' is from their 2008 EP, and is really the only great example of the Sixties-style psychedelic pop they had previously embodied so well to make it onto their debut long player. 'Trance-Like Turn', meanwhile, had made it onto a compilation for the Energy Action Coalition in 2008, and while it bears little resemblance to anything else they released then, it is beautifully composed, filled with airy, floating vocals and synths that would have been at home on Yeasayer’s latest release.
The rubber band bass twang of opening track 'The Dawn of Your Happiness' has a frivolous, happy feel that doesn’t give the most accurate impression of what lies ahead. There is a whole lot of gloss on Amoral that falsely projects beat, poppy ideas, but repeat listens reveal a more brooding nature. A more appropriate opener would have been the incredibly brief title track, a sinister collage of spoken word and eerie sounds that comes unfortunately late in the album.
Elsewhere, Amoral certainly has its merits, but often feels more like the sum of its parts than whole songs. The tones are from somewhere around when the Eighties turned into the Nineties. There are crunchy guitars and the occasional descent into static, but for the most part it is the synths that take over. What determines how tight the songs are is how focussed the synths are - it’s a matter of whether they’re creating atmosphere or adding a flourish, or simply adding coats of arbitrary gloss. Violens have achieved their sound and successfully executed their technique, but are still wanting for purpose.
6Amanda Farah's Score