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Venn – Runes

Full Time Hobby

Venn - RunesThe core duo of Venn have been together since 2013, with the current trio format since 2014. They have released a few 12″s and a CD-R which was distributed by hand in random places like HMV, Oxford Street, Soho House toilets and on Jack Kerouac‘s grave.

Clearly there is a sense of adventure and also a degree of fun in amongst the values they bring to the song-writing process, and this is reflected well in this, their début album. These days, the band are spread between London and Berlin and the pull of those two cities goes someway to describing the sound that they produce. There is a motorik element to the Venn sound, but this has become a somewhat hackneyed phrase recently and does little to explain. It is better to say that the sound is sleek and modern with a purity of production that brings to mind well-oiled German engineering. I am reminded a little in places of the likes of Appliance and their various offshoots; but whereas Appliance only really had one sound, Venn have done well to incorporate that facet into a larger and more diverse whole.

Opener “Legacy Project” sets the scene well. The song appears to glide towards the listener, the beat repetitive and hypnotic, the view through the window a night-time cityscape, all blurred streetlights and smooth tarmac. It is comfortable yet restless and draws the listener in to this well-constructed and mysterious world. This feeling is exchanged for a kind of euphoria on the following “Real Blood”. The track is more bass-oriented and the drumming is so simple yet incredibly effective. There was something about it that brought to mind the Wolfgang Press and when the simple guitar break comes in, allied with very subtle background effects, it generates something in the listener like a sense of wellbeing, an inner sigh; the vocals are high and clean and seem to swoop in right across the top range of the sound.

The vibe changes again for “Slowly Sinking” and employs a more modern vocabulary to generate a sound that is stark and spectral. The heartbeat rhythm really touches the listener and the simplicity, yet effectiveness, of the song is a testament to their ability to stick with a very basic set of ingredients yet create something moving. There is something incredibly addictive about a song that can match your rhythms with its own and that, along with the deft use of the cymbal on “Esalen 64” is just perfect. “I’m still here, a shadow on the future”, the vocals tell us, and they are pure and crisp, English and unencumbered by effects and nonsense; and when the guitar breaks and is joined by a Furs-like saxophone courtesy of Daddy G, they shine like a sky full of stars. This is one of the most subtle and evocative uses of saxophone I have heard in a while.

Runes pulses with ideas as it progresses, with manic post-punk drums on “Supernature”, the slow, mysterious distant build-up of “A Smaller Part”, even the portal to anywhere that is “Dave Land”, which has just about enough beat to exist, but has enough space to be anything it wants. Positivity abounds throughout the album and the almost yearning “I want to feel real love again” of “Bigger Fiction” sweeps the listener up into this vibrant, positive world of possibilities. The album ends with the harsh angularity of “Waxen Palm”. It doesn’t seem to know which way to jump as the sound of a phone and what seems to be a bandsaw conjoin with that essential rhythm to produce something slightly alien, yet strangely seductive.

This is a début album from a band full of ideas and also full of confidence. It has enough of the esoteric to enable it to stand out, but the pop hooks lurking in the bones of the songs are enough to enable them to lodge themselves in your memory. It is a great album and I look forward to seeing what they can produce in a bright, vibrant and sleek future.

-Mr Olivetti-

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