Friday, July 20, 2012

Christine Plays Viola - S/T EP



For me, darkwave is an interesting genre.

I was raised by parents who loved The Cure, The Smiths and Joy Division, so it was probably inevitable that I’d end up veering towards the more sombre side of  music eventually. That said, I have a tendency to gloss over modern darkwave, preferring to stick to the classic s, like the aforementioned bands, as well as more shoegazey bleakness like My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain when I want a bit more ambience to go with my sorrow.

Italian darkwavers Christine Plays Viola managed to really grab my ear though. Not only do they have the all-too-familiar gloomy atmosphere that gothic music is both loved and hated for, but they also have a very definite sound of their own. Nevertheless, they still manage to pay enough homage to the founders of the genre to give classic goths something to be happy (or deeply, deeply sad) about.
Instrumental opener "To Woke" is a damn fine way to kick this EP off. It builds up nice and gently, with distant, hazy sounding percussion and deep, rumbling bass. I may completely lose you here, but the best way to describe this track is the bastard son of the intro to Pearl Jam's Once (yes, Pearl Jam) and The Cure's "Plainsong." While I’m aware this may sound like an INCREDIBLY strange marriage of styles, it’s the best way I can put into words how it sounds. Seriously, check it out and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

"To Woke" bleeds nicely into "Keep My Scorn Warm", probably the standout track on offer here. Introducing the *gasp* grim vocals of lead singer Massimo Ciampani, a man who, judging by his gruff tone, obviously doesn't get enough sleep and is about as likely to write cheerful lyrics as he is to wear colourful clothing, as well as some haunting female vocals courtesy of guest vocalist Rosetta Garri of The Spiritual Bat. The bass and drums in particular remind me a lot of The Cure’s classic album Disintegration, and trust me, that is not something to be taken lightly. (or should that be darkly? Eh? EHH!?.. I’ll stop with the goth puns soon. Promise.)

Next up is yet another instrumental, the aptly titled "It’ll Be Cold This Winter". An evocative, ethereal little number, which really stands out thanks to the haunting keyboard and guitar work, as well as bringing violin to proceedings . The ambience on this is absolutely gorgeous, suiting the title impeccably. The high pitched, morose violin wails add so much emotion to the whole ebb and flow of this piece. It’s very easy to imagine this playing as some raven-haired, trenchcoat-clad girl glides ever so gracefully across a field of pristine white snow. While crying tears of blood. Into a black rose. Near a church. At midnight. And yes, this is a good thing. Remember, we’re dealing with goths here.

Final track "Apocryphal Supremacy" brings the sullen vocal work of Ciampani back, and this time with plenty of reverb to keep everything sounding beautifully distant and melancholic. Yet again, the drumming here reminds me a ridiculous amount of Disintegration, and, again, I can not stress how much of a good thing this is. Of the entire EP, this is by far the most interesting song dynamically, starting off menacing, before getting back to sombre, and then on to a truly chilling, stripped-down climax. Just thinking about the haunting piano chords and gentle whispers is giving me tingles again.
The production is also excellent throughout. Everything sits so well in the mix. There is literally no sonic space left unused. It’s the care given to the ambience of each individual track, as well as to the atmosphere of the EP as a whole that makes this a really solid offering for fans of black nail polish and eyeliner, just bursting at the seams with sorrow, melody and bats. Just be sure to keep your red wine and crucifix handy.

--Malice

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