Valerian Swing | bandcamp |
Valerian Swing put the ‘mental’ in ‘experimental’. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to listen to their first album, you’d know that it was borderline insane, wildly syncopated, and above all- precise. Nothing really felt disjointed, even though the entire album’s just as crazy as that aunt or uncle your parents never speak of. And after that album of thrashing about, it’s nice to hear they’ve settled down for their second studio album, A U R O R A.
Just kidding. Now they’re on cocaine.
They’re like kids with too much candy, like musical muscle spasms. The drummer doesn’t just keep up, he’s like a rabid dog on a leash, constantly pulling things forward. The bassist has definitely stepped up his game, so now their sound isn’t so guitar-driven, which was my one small complaint about their first album. Now the trio has evolved into an act with the four attributes I admire most in a band: Technical knowledge, expressive songwriting, the ability to play without drowning each other out, and a willingness to let your insanity show itself.
The choice to include vocals in ‘3 Juno’ (after their previous album hardly had any at all) reminds me of Earth’s ‘Primitive and Deadly’ and their choice to include vocals for the first time in a long time. It might split the fans in two, which would be risky in the long run. However, Valerian Swing is still being true to themselves, leaving me with the impression that they haven’t changed their sound, they’ve just gotten better. And it’s not like they can’t sing, the distant vocals are quite fitting for their space-y sound.
‘Cancer Minor’ would probably be the best example of the chiptune/electronic elements they’ve added into the mix. At first it doesn’t sound it’d mix with aggressive mathrock, especially when horns are already shoved into the song. It’s a bit much to take in, but that’s the more aggressive side to A U R O R A.
‘Scilla’ is definitely the most enigmatic track for me. I can’t decide if it’s my favourite track with its gang vocals chorus and absolutely mental intro, of it’s my least favourite, because sometimes it sounds like the drummer had so many things in mind for this song that he tried doing all of his plans at once. For the most part, it sounds really good and well-orchestrated, but he occasionally slips into something awkward, in an already complicated rhythm. I think the drummer was trying to discover his limits here, and succeeded.
‘Cariddi’ is the soundtrack to the band catching its collective breath. It’s much slow, much more grandiose. More noise and droning elements are implemented for the soundscape, giving it a solemn tonality, compared to the other pieces. Eventually building towards a climax, it shifts from a minor to a major tonality, making the blasting guitars all the more dramatic when they finally reach the pinnacle of the song. The best example of Post-rock in this entire album.
‘In Vacuum’s opening guitar is heavily laden with effects, it accurately sounds like a keyboard. All of their facebook posts about new pedals finally show themselves to be true. When I first this song and the intricate melody the guitar played, I was convinced it was an organ or something, it’s so well camouflaged. I want to say they brought back the gang vocals here, but it’s more like a gang… choir? The way they layered the harmonies so close to each other brings images of cathedrals to mind. But with the space theme in mind, I see the shell of a church floating in space.
‘Spazio’ is the second best example of Valerian Swing’s post-rock side with it being 5 minutes of instruments swaying between loud passages of syncopated math, and slower ambience riddled with fleeting keyboard sounds, like digital shooting stars. The imagery is something I could experience time and time again, they’ve really outdone themselves with their cinematic soundscapes.
And whipping you back to their more violent and mathematical tendencies is ‘Parsec’, one of the album’s shorter pieces. Considering the vast lengths that a Parsec represents, I was disappointed that this song isn’t a bit longer. The disappointmented vanishes when you hear that it’s joined with the longest track, ‘Calar Alto’. The synth-y layers and heavily effected vocals in the intro have a definite feel of completion to it, like they’re announcing the end of the album. “Thanks for listening, sorry for melting your brain.” The entire piece has a sense of grandeur to it, very crescendo-core, without the pretentiousness of most other crescendo-core pieces. In fact, looking back, the whole album had a vague sense of grandeur to it, making the space theme very tangible.
This album always leaves me impressed and wanting more. I find myself listening to their first album, ‘A Sailor Lost Around The Earth’ right after listening to A U R O R A, and then repeating the process over and over again. Some days I forget which album I started out with, because of the never ending loop. Valerian Swing is addictive, and they’ve given me another, much larger dose. I fear their next album will be my end.