Violens are a band I know virtually nothing about, which is perhaps in many ways a blessing; there are way too many albums out there that let you down because they don't live up to your expectations, or because you've already heard half of the music on it. Essentially, when I pressed play all I knew was that they're a New York band with a considerable amount of buzz, and a penchant for releasing mixtapes.
After a few listens of 'Amoral' however, I feel I've discovered a bit about this group - the way they like taking what might seem like formulaic '80s alternative music (think Simple Minds) and making it darker, more distorted. How they make oddly memorable not-quite-polished pop music with slashes of thrashing, dirty rock and strange, trance-like electro. You know how Kasabian make catchy music, but it's also actually quite weird? Perhaps a comparison some will disagree with, but in that sense I think we've found New York's much more obscure answer to Kasabian. 'Amoral' is nostalgic, and makes use of the strange sounds of the '60s and '80s, but never to the point of blindly copying those eras, adding the weird distortion of the '90s and the odd, psychedelic twists in otherwise perfectly pop-like songs which perhaps recalls more recent bands like Yeasayer.
Reading the above, it might be hard to work out whether I'm a fan of the album; I am. It twists and turns illusively, and just when you think you've pinned their sound down (my initial thoughts were something along the lines of a darker Phoenix), they come at you with something completely different - but not to the point where the album becomes disjointed. Indeed, the sound flows fairly nicely, from the steady drums and punching guitars of your standard indie rock song, to raw distortion and ear-melting noise, then to bizarre twinkling synths, seductive bass lines and floaty Deerhunter-esque vocals. You could of course go for the old failsafe of filing them as shoe-gaze, but their music is often more melodic than that. Their sound could be defined as many things thanks to this wonderful diversity, and they're certainly not conforming to any particular genre; in fact, that's sort of the charm of it.
But it is this mysteriousness of sound that might be the very reason for which others decide to seek fault with the band - on 'Amoral', you can't help but feel Violens fail to establish themselves entirely. I started listening to the album with no idea who they were, and I've finished it feeling more or less the same way.
For now though, the issue of Violens' identity seems irrelevant, as 'Amoral' is certainly a solid album with few, if any, weak spots - it's definitely worth getting hold of.
'Amoral' is out tomorrow on Static Recital, and you can buy it here.