Thursday, 4 February 2010

Velvet Cacoon - Dextronaut (2002) 72/100.

I’ve always viewed Velvet Cacoon’s ‘Dextronaut’ as the uglier twin sister of the beautiful, mesmerising ‘Genevieve’. My opinion of both records was the same the first time I heard them, but has gradually altered the more I have become accustomed to their dirty ways of viewing the world and it’s inhabitants. Initially, I couldn’t work through the overwhelming sense of fuzzy distortion and because of that, I was unable to truly enjoy the dark sense of hatred that fills the hollow void that is the hearts of the two enigmatic musicians behind this project. My thoughts on this project were similar to that of Darkspace the first time I heard the Swiss band play their daunting wall-of-noise sound. I couldn’t handle the pressure that this ploy places upon the listener. It was like being trapped in a vacuum and the constant swirling of the darkest kind of ambiance made me feel somewhat nauseous and afraid to open my eyes. However, peering through my hands which were firmly placed over my eyes as if I were watching a classic horror story unfold made me eventually become accustomed to the wonderful ways of the wall-of-noise personality trait that bands like Darkspace and Velvet Cacoon display with disdain.

Velvet Cacoon are regarded as one of not only America’s, but the worlds strangest bands and for good reason. We’ve all heard the stories of stealing other people’s material and anyone who’s anyone has an opinion on the Oregon outfit, but despite all this, instead of being enraged by their actions, I find myself drawn to them like a moth to the flame. There is something intriguing about them, regardless of how one views the music. Whether I’m listening to ‘Dextronaut’, or which ever record has proceeded it, I always get that familiar warm feeling despite the bleak, cold atmospherical characteristics of the bands sound. It is a feeling which makes me happily persist with the unrelenting style of records such as this. As I said at the beginning of the review, ‘Dextronaut’ is the uglier twin sister. It displays a more visceral quality than ‘Genevieve’ did and certainly more so than the watered down, smooth atmospherics of the latest two full-lengths, one of which is a fully ambient piece of music akin to fellow America band Procer Veneficus, a direction I was dreading Velvet Cacoon taking on.

Essentially, ‘Dextronaut’ is the same entity as ‘Genevieve’, possessing most of the same traits but without the presence to sustain itself in the long run. As with certain materials when they’re buried deep under ground, ‘Dextronaut’ eventually erodes and is no longer apart of the memory, despite its pleasing assets and whilst this occurs, ‘Genevieve’ continues to live and breathe, serving a purpose in the long-term memory and fighting against the natural process of erosion. I do think of the two as almost the same being, though ‘Genevieve’ consists of more beauty and every shared trait is highlighted tenfold, thus giving it the ability to overpower it’s predecessor and live on in our hearts as a treasured masterpiece. ‘Dextronaut’ fixates on that distortion and continues with it as an integral theme of the record. The guitars and the vocals are the main assets and although they never do alter, they still remain a repetitive force at all stages. Songs like ‘A Year of Decembers’ however do manage to instil a certain amount of belief that the musicians can alter their vocal exploits and this has happened in the present in the form of ‘P aa Opal Poere Pr. 33’, a record which uses an entirely different vocalist altogether.

So, unsurprisingly, the guitars are our central point. Bass is practically nonexistent amongst the distortion and hissing, venomous vocals. You can just imagine the vocals being performed by a charmed snake, one who is unleashing his onomatopoeic vocals of hatred in preparation to strike and kill. The lyrical themes don’t play much of a part on this record when you consider the indecipherable nature of the vocals themselves and the fact that the vocals tend to accompany the guitars and repetitious percussion as an extra instrument, one which has much the same role to play as the aforementioned aspects. Some of the songs do contain those special elements which made ‘Genevieve’ so important to me during those cold, wintry months. Songs like the aptly named ‘Nest of Hate’ are incredibly memorable and could almost be considered infectious, like a hidden disease which eats away at your insides, only to come to attention by the time it’s too late to do anything about it. Songs like this give the record a bouncy quality and give it a longevity that most of the other songs fail to achieve. With this in mind, the record establishes itself as made of two overriding qualities - one half is memorable and the other forgettable with time and age. A likeable effort without being latching on to the long-term memory.

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