I wrote a few weeks ago on these pages about Velvet Cacoon’s other release of this year, “Atropine,” which was well-hyped with plenty of unprovable mystique about source tapes being buried for years before completion, the occult nature of the compound atropine and the plant, belladonna, from which it comes. “Atropine” focused exclusively on the drone side of Velvet Cacoon, explored through 8 intensely minimal compositions ranging from three to 37 minutes. This album featured none of the space ambient black metal that brought the band to prominence several years ago, and very little had been said about the other release, “P aa opal Poere Pr. 33,” since Atropine had been announced, though an early demo released by the label hinted at layers of guitars washed in reverb and feedback, a suitable followup to the ebb and flow captu-red on “Genevieve,” and earlier this year some raw guitar tracks were leaked across a few blogs announcing the album was going to be shelved and remain unfinished due to lack of inspiration.
Thankfully, convoluted release histories aside, the album has made it to the public, and what an album. This is not a “more-of-the-same” effort, nor does it seem to pay any mind to the waves of imitators that have popped up since the widespread appreciation of “Genevieve.” What we have are eight tracks, six of which are composed variously of downtuned guitar riffs that seem to have been recorded in a sonic hall of mirrors, basslines that are agile yet imposing, and a slightly more convincing drum machine that moves at a slower pace and varies the rhythmic interpretation frequently during songs. The mixing and production are near perfect, with a balance that both propels the melodies with a druggy precision, and allows them to soar beyond the rhythmic boundaries laid down by the bass and drums. Guitars, synths and what might be muffled piano and background vocals form new alchemical materials, alloys of sonic matter that expands through repetition across each song – seriously folks, the texture here is unreal. Fans may be disinclined to believe any hype or promotional material surrounding VC these days, but there is something audibly unique about VC recordings, whether black metal or ambient – they have so many ingredients lined in almost perfect synchronicity, but occasionally they fall out of sync just long enough for the true depth of sound to be perceived, Josh of VC has recently talked about the importance of Theta waves to the music of VC and to the dextromethorphan experience, and insists they form a heavy part of the band’s musical formula. It would be hard for anyone not present during the recording and production sessions to confirm this, but this detail would certainly explain why VC manages to have an aesthetic that stands out from the many other ambient/black metal acts in existence. Note the track 2 for its glacial, minimal lead riff, or Marylux for a bassline that crawls above the guitar texture to be heard. Grevona features a hypnotic pattern of acoustic guitar picking within the texture, seeming to re-shape the song’s momentum when the drums mostly drop out toward the end of the song. Two tracks on the album deviate from this pattern. “Aventine” is entirely instrumental, featuring desperate, downtuned guitars over an amorphous synth texture full of bell-like reverb. It’s a piece of music that could go on well past its three and a half minutes without getting too boring, and one wonders if this is a future hint of the direction of Velvet Cacoon. The album closer, Flouvonne, sounds like a field recording of Josh and Angela hallucinating on a beach and conversing quietly in French. It doesn’t amount to much, but it is a fitting, atmospheric end to the album.
Let’s be clear – this is not a succinct followup to Genevieve. The tunes here provide a spacey, navel-gazing backdrop that really requires sitting still to enjoy and experience. And I’m sure Velvet Cacoon wouldn’t mind if you took a few psychedelics before spinning this album – but even sober, the album provides a worthwhile listening experience. A careful ear will notice that most of the vocal duties on the album are of a different style – Cain of Snowfall provides a more typical black metal shriek that is also shrouded in reverb, fitting in neatly to the instrumental sounds, although occasionally one can hear Josh’s distinctive hiss. The only real difference here is that the more traditional black metal vocals don’t have quite the same intimacy as the band’ s normal style, but the difference is marginal. VC proves with “P aa opal Poere Pr. 33” that they’ve got the innovation and the distinction to stand among the many ambient black-metal bands they’ve inspired since the release of “Genevieve,” and provides some tantalizing glimpses at what the band could end up doing with their next release, whenever it hits the market. It’s exciting that a band that spent so much time shrouded in their own mystique can deliver this strongly.
Release: August 2009
Label: Starlight Temple Society
Avantgenre: Innerspace Navigational Metal
Official site: http://www.velvetcacoon.com
Review online since: 08.09.2009 / 21:56:27
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