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  Russian Doll  
  Violet Indiana  
  Bella Union  
Release Date:

3.May.2004 in the UK,
8.June.2004 in the US

Reviewed by:

This is the seventh Violet Indiana release that i have reviewed for EvilSponge (it might, in fact, be their seventh overall release as well -- i think i have them all, although i might be missing one somewhere), but it is only the second full length album in that list. Robin Guthrie, the guru behind Violet Indiana, apparently prefers to work in shorter increments. I find this interesting in that albums are currently the norm in the music world whereas EPs and singles are somewhat rarer. Of course, when has Guthrie ever pandered to the mainstream?

For their second full length album, Violet Indiana continue exploring the sounds that they have mapped out previously, and the band turns in a remarkable effort. This is a well-crafted album of light pop music, and there are some really great tunes here. New Girl soars under vocalist Siobhan de Mare's voice. Listening to the lyrics, i wonder if this song is her response to criticism that she is no Liz Fraser, as she sings, "But i'm his new girl." It's a powerful tune. And of course, the single Beyond the Furr is a great pop song with awesome Guthrie guitarwork. Both of these songs are catchy.

Additionally, there are a few songs that play with the usual Violet Indiana voice and guitars framework. Specifically, Quelque Jour features a strong piano motif accompanied by brushed drumming. The overall tone is somewhat uneasy, and yet, of all the songs on this album, this strikes me as the one most likely to be featured in an Austin Powers film. That is, this song has a real 60's lounge feel to it. Uneasy, but loungey.

You features some of the strongest bass riffage ever featured in a Violet Indiana tune, combined with some light static on the drums that make it seem almost IDM-ish. Not bad at all. I for one would love to see Guthrie and De Mare experiment with more electronica sounds. Perhaps this is a hint as to what is to come?

Finally, the album closes with a typical Guthrie end track. It's called Close the World and, following his preferred format, starts almost ambiently, then swells to a loudness caused by layers and layers of instrumentation being added. It builds to a very nice frenzy, and is well done.

Otherwise, well, there are 10 tracks total in the 40 minutes of the album. None of them are bad per se, but the ones i didn't mention above didn't stand out to me, really. That is, they are typical Violet Indiana songs, which is expected, but still they don't stand out from the crowd. Overall, though, i think that this album moves at a slower pace than earlier Violet Indiana releases. It is a contented pace, not at all hurried, but it still seems slower than some of their earlier work.

One word of warning, it took me a few listens to really get into Russian Doll. Not to say that i hated it when i first heard it, but rather that as i listened to it more and more i grew to appreciate and admire the subtle sonic texturings that Guthrie is doing here. And i think that subtlety is the big difference between Violet Indiana and Cocteau Twins. With Cocteau Twins, Guthrie was doing all sorts of things with layering sounds that hadn't been done before, and sometimes it seemed a bit much. With Violet Indiana, he is still doing those same things, only far more subtly. I think that, of all of the Violet Indiana releases, this is a good one for a Cocteau Twins fan to pick up first as an entry into the Violet Indiana sound. And my recommendation is to listen to it on headphones those first few times, and you will appreciate the subtle Guthrieness of the album.

Overall, this is a strong album. Violet Indiana continue to make lovely music. I even think that this is a fuller realized example of the sound they are shooting for than Roulette was.

Related Links:
  Violet Indiana releases to date, in chromological order:
   EP: Choke
   Album: Roulette
   Single: Killer Eyes
   EP: Special
   Compilation: Casino
   Single: Beyond the Furr

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