Twine: Violets

After five long years, Greg Malcolm and Chad Mossholder return from the wilderness with their fourth Twine full-length Violets, the soundtrack for a dying civilization whose members and nations seem to be at perpetual war with one another and hell-bent on contaminating whatever collective resources still remain. As a sonic analogue, it's an oft-bleak portrait but anyone living in the US since 2000 will understand why.

The product of long distance file-sharing with the partners residing in separate cities, Violets reveals a marked shift in style from the group's third, self-titled album. Whereas it retained some degree of kinship with Autechre-styled IDM, Violets has more in common sonically with the psychedelic, guitar-centric doomscaping of Set Fire To Flames and bands of that ilk; though the burbling electronic beats in “Disconnected” recall Twine's style, Violets is ultimately more Alien8 and Constellation than Warp. Over a hazy bed of tremolo guitars and electronics in “In Through the Devices,” Twine layers a phone conversation between a troubled teenager and concerned adult that's fraught with anguish—a powerful device similarly deployed by Set Fire To Flames and Godspeed You! Black Emperor on their recordings. Voices of different kinds surface elsewhere too, their disembodied presence indicative of dislocation, isolation, and alienation. In addition, a brooding, dread-filled spirit permeates the material in a manner that calls to mind the music of Angelo Badalamenti.

Violets begins in a relatively placid mode but follows a progressively nightmarish trajectory with the advent of each subsequent piece. “Small” opens the album beautifully with a plaintive, reverb-soaked guitar theme that gracefully sighs against a rain-soaked backdrop—hardly a harbinger for the disturbed visions to come. The enveloping ambiance continues into “Endormie” with the alluring vocal presence of Cranes' Alison Shaw; a sense of impending doom, however, emerges in the disorientation expressed by a child's utterance “There's a wonderful place out there / But I don't know where to go.” In the dirge-like title piece, guitars and wailing voices are slowly dragged into a murky undertow, never to be heard from again. However, just when it appears that all hope is gone, “Lightrain” flirts with the possibility of resurrection when its dense brew of electronics, guitars, and piano appears to blossom towards the end of its thirteen minutes, as if straining towards the light piercing through Violets' cracks. Perhaps having Gail Schadt's pure voice rise above the shuddering electronics in the coda “Something Like Eternity” is Twine's way of saying that maybe there's still room for hope after all. Regardless, the album ultimately registers as a fabulously immersive listen and, as a complete listening experience, immensely satisfying.

June 2008