This is the third time I have entered Violet Indiana’s sweetly perfumed world, having reviewed their debut album and the European-only Special EP for PopMatters in 2001.
Violet Indiana is Robin Guthrie, late of The Cocteau Twins, and Siobhan De Marè, formerly of Mono. I’ve described their music as “not to groove to but to brood to,” and I stand by that. But the material on this new Casino LP, mostly culled from Special and two other EPs, plus three new songs, raises the level of their songwriting.
The duo have sacrificed little in the way of dreaminess but gained much in the way of cohesion. Of the three previously unreleased recordings, “Heaven” is the best representation of what Violet Indiana does musically. Minimalist guitar and keyboard figures somehow add up to a sound that is satisfyingly full.
The standout tracks from Special are even more so here, especially the liquid “Poppy”. Even “Sky” a song that on the previous EP sounded something like a re-tread, somehow sounds more like a resolution here.
In the past, I’ve occasionally idly wished that Violet Indiana would vary their sound a little, supply a little more hop with their trip. “Safe Word”, originally a B-side of the Killer Eyes single, actually seems to answer this, and “Storm,” from the same single, begs a dance remix. Something like the boys in Daft Punk or Depeche Mode might use. Which is probably nothing that Guthrie and Siobhan want to have anything to do with, but a man can dream, can’t he?
Yet the very Violet Indiana “Purr La Perla,” from the Choke EP, is the best thing here. A shimmering piece of music from Guthrie accompanying an interior monologue of such intimacy by Siobhan that it almost seems to be coming from the back of your head. Which is a very comfortable place for a Violet Indiana song to be.
Those who like their dream pop a little more awake, who like their attack a little less massive, who want their musical town warmer than Portishead, should value Violet Indiana. In the end, theirs is the kind of music that makes life just a little bit better. It doesn’t change your life – there’s not much music that can do that. But it does make it better.
Bella Union: http://www.bellaunion.com/violet.htm