The press release for Venus Hum's new recording states "Categorizing this band will be difficult." No truer words could describe the Nashville, Tennessee based trio as they are genuinely unique unto themselves. Grounded in synthesizer infused new age electronica, Venus Hum's sound is an amalgam of everything good, bad, and ugly from the '80s and early '90s. One moment may find them channeling aural styles from Kate Bush to Sinead O'Connor (the good); other times may hearken back to the vapid efforts of Ace of Base and the Pet Shop Boys (the bad); still other moments rekindle memories of Jan Hammer's Miami Vice explorations (the ugly). Whatever the case may be, Venus Hum scores points for originality, and Big Beautiful Sky warrants significant listening time for objective evaluation.
Consisting of 12 tracks, the album's offerings mirror the diversity of the group's chameleon like persona. The songs "Hummingbirds", "Montana", "Soul Sloshing", and "Sonic Boom" pulsate with rave party gusto, highlighting the skills of instrumentalists Kip Kubin and Tony Miracle. The infectious grooving thump of these four tracks evidences Venus Hum's ability to hold their own on any strobe lit techno-dance floor, and should appeal to those whose like their electronic music at a moderately slowed down pace.
Conversely, "Wordless May" and "Alice" depart from the dance ready soundtrack, showcasing instead the ethereal luster of Annette Strean's vocals. Her thoughtful approach is evident, and is a welcome compliment to the songs well crafted lyrics. She has the ability to meld richness and warmth into the album's lighter inclusions, while seeming to teeter on the brink of belting out a verse or two from "99 Luft Balloons".
Covering the polar opposites of dance and lighter new age listening with relative ease, Venus Hum attempt to find a happy medium with the tracks "Lumberjacks", "Springtime #2", "Honey", and "Bella Luna". Not quite danceable but a bit too edgy to relax with, these songs display the group's talent for harnessing lush tonal qualities and making them exceedingly user friendly. They succeed by incorporating a maturity into their sound rarely experienced with other mid range electronica acts, which at times may come across as somewhat self indulgent.
The standout moments on Big Beautiful Sky occur by way of the tracks "The Bells" and "Beautiful Spain". The latter is punctuated by a discernable brooding overtone that allows the song to ebb and flow with an unusually ornate quality to it. The former resonates with a powerful orchestration that again displays Venus Hum's scope of compositional skill and depth. They are without question the album's most potent offerings.
Clocking in at nearly 48-minutes in length, Big Beautiful Sky poses an interesting conundrum to listeners: Is the group a legitimately talented hybrid of techno flavored new age, or is Venus Hum a bit too sophisticated sound wise for its own good? It seems that the current release includes a broad potpourri of influences that will certainly garner sizeable, if not widespread appeal amongst electronica aficionados. That said, Venus Hum may not be on heavy rotation at the next rave party, but Big Beautiful Sky might be one of those albums that continues to grow on the listener as time goes by.
Something to check out . . . something to potentially enjoy.