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Album Review

Amoral kicks off with a sharp, springy bass riff leading into "The Dawn of Your Happiness," an aptly named slice of buoyant, Beatlesque power pop in the vein of XTC or Jellyfish. It's a stunning, unexpected opening move coming from a hiply appointed N.Y.C. rock band c. 2010, but it turns out to be something of a bait-and-switch. Although there are similar strands of melodic sweetness and gobs of '60s-sparked harmonies scattered throughout the rest of the album, they rarely come together again in such a distinct, indelible fashion, save perhaps on the much gentler "Violent Sensation Descends," a lovely bit of paisley pop with a particularly Shins-ish vocal turn from frontman Jorge Elbrecht, bookended by freakish noise barrages which sound something like the Zombies being devoured by actual zombies. Instead, Violens work their way through a sea of arty guitar pop/rock influences, dredging up a slew of familiar post-punk, noise pop, and shoegaze touchstones, often all in the same track — "Until It's Unlit," for instance, veers from a lite punk-funk groove oddly similar to Madonna's "Holiday" to dreamy, swirling psych-pop, to a crunchy, thrashing coda — and often with pleasant results, but without ever settling on a coherent signature sound. Which is fine as far as it goes — Amoral sounds quite lustrous, and yields a few worthy take-away moments, including the soft, gauzy "Trance-Like Turn," and especially the gritty, propulsive, cheekily titled single "Acid Reign" (which hints at the muscular majesty of School of Seven Bells — a band, by the way, who manage to do something far more distinctive with a similar set of influences) — but it adds up to a disappointingly undistinguished whole. Violens are descended from Lansing-Dreiden, a dormant-if-not-defunct band (or, as they'd have it, "art company") notorious for their opacity and anonymity, who were frequently accused of using enigmatic, overblown posturing to mask a fundamental lack of substance. It's a lot easier to figure out what's going on — and what's not — with this new incarnation, and even though there's still something slippery about their stylistic orientation, and perhaps a dearth of tangible content, it's great to hear these guys ply their considerable musical gifts in the interest of musical pleasure rather than high-concept artiness. Amoral or not, this album serves as a reminder that the superficial can still sound pretty super. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi


Formed: 2007 in New York, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Formed by former members of Lansing-Dreiden in late 2007, New York's Violens derive their name from a combination of "violence" and "violins." The band, originally comprised of Jorge Elbrecht (vocals, guitar), Iddo Arad (vocals, synthesizer), Ben Brantley (bass), and Kris King (drums), played its first show in December of 2007. With a sound influenced by such disparate elements as Zombies-style psych-pop, shoegaze, post-punk, and Miami freestyle, Violens released their self-titled EP on the Static...
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