Violet Indiana: Special

Ben Varkentine

Violet Indiana


Label: Bella Union
US Release Date: 2001-10-02

I reviewed Violet Indiana's Roulette album for PopMatters earlier this year. In that review, I praised Robin Guthrie's delicate, artful guitars and Siobhan De Mare's overdubbed and multi-tracked voice and the way the two met to create sensual, dreamy music.

Having listened to the new Special EP twice now as I begin to write this, it strikes me as the equivalent of a competent but uninspired movie sequel, containing more of he same elements that made the first so successful, but (so far) without the charm and novelty of newness. The Violet Indiana sound is still almost all trip, and I personally wouldn't mind just a little more hop sometimes. Not that one wants vocalist De Mare to turn into Mary J. Blige or anything (though she could certainly do worse), but there are just times I wish the rhythm would hit just a little bit harder. And to be fair, "Jailbird" on the new EP does a better job of that than anything on Roulette. "Poppy" seems likely to hold up the best of anything on the EP. In the lyric, the opiate of the title appears to be the feeling of waking up with a new lover for the first time. Guthrie saturates the track with echoey, intense but oh-so-slow guitars and Mare's vocals sound like a kiss when your eyes are closed. "Sky" on the new EP especially sounds like another go-round of the Roulette wheel in its guitar figures and trippy sonics. The songs are undeniably Violet Indiana and fill the room with haze, yet the last batch eventually settled at the back of your mind and took up residence on three or more hearings.

Violet Indiana remains music not for you to groove to but to brood to. At its best, it's dynamic and sometimes even sexy, at worst . . . no jury in the world can convict you for the crime of only making "beautiful" music. If this EP has not yet found the place in my heart that the album did, it could be due to the fact that I've only listened to it about two and three-fourth times through as I write this ending. Roulette took a few more spins than that. It may also be down to the definitively light nature of an EP.

But I like going to the places that Violet Indiana takes me to. If some of them look familiar this time around, it doesn't make the pleasant land any less green.

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