CHRISTINE PLAYS VIOLA
Italy's quartet Christine Plays Viola is different from every other genus in the current Goth family and "Vacua", their second full-length release to date, leaves no doubt in that respect. It not only delivers on the promises made in the Single/EP "Leocadia" the past year, but goes even beyond them to take the quality and consistency of their previous work one level higher. All its elements (lyrics, music, arrangements, subjects) has been drawn with precise, well-crafted brushstrokes, framing an inspiring mosaic of feelings and emotions. Starting from Post-Punk and Darkwave fragments, this Goth Rock painting emerges as a haunting realm that seems ruled by its own rules. In fact, it's nothing new that Fabrizio Giampietro (guitars, synths, programming), Massimo Ciampani (vocals), Desio Presutti (bass) and Daniel Palombizio (drums, synths) are experts in the art of soundscaping. Although this time shadows clearly predominate over lights - one only has to glance through the tracklist to realize it. Another strength is CPV's particular skill to constantly change the moods - often several times within the same track - swapping them through smooth, barely preceptible transitions. This distinctive feature, together with the inventive ambiances, is indicative of a solid classical background. So, in spite of its title what this album treasures is anything but vacuous. On the contrary, you will find yourself riding an emotional roller-coaster, firmly attached to bass and percussion rails, whose main evoking force lies in the singer's versatility. Massimo's capacities enable him to switch between high-pitched voices and baritones with dexterity, thereby making CPV's creations immediately recognizable. All the above, plus the debonair, flawless guitar playing, explain why this band has been striking a chord with a diverse audience since its inception in Pratola Peligna six years ago. Their personal style appeals to goths of all sorts, from old-school devotees to fans of the newer sounds. This is not surprising given anthemic gems such as "Slaughter Of The Black Sun" and "Scattered In The Dust (Slay With Dismay)". The song-writing manages to salute British New Wave, The Cure and, to a lesser extent, The Chameleons, without being capture by them. However, Christine Plays Viola is a kaleidoscopic artefact of a different caliber entirely as it's shown from "Near The Entrance To The Underworld", which undulates and soothes in its first part, swaying in synth breezes and well-projected low vocals, until bass shifts the track into a higher gear, working its alchemy with the addictive percussion and choruses; or by the closer, "Thirst For Justice", gloomy and sprawlingly epic, drenched in ominous effects and keys in counterpoint to delicate guitar pluckings. Not to mentioned "Whoosing Dissolution", partially oriental-flavored, flashing brilliantly on its calm phases and roughly explosive when anxiety takes control, or "Leocadia", built on moody bass and tribal drums, with vocals, melodies and distortions insinuating lots of Goya's black painting imagery. But if something characterizes "Vacua" that is its assortment. Thus, you can find tunes as diverse as "In Silence Withdrawn", which variegates in the cooler colours of wave, "Threatening Clouds Of Surrender", charmingly speckled with Synth Pop tones, or you can also distend yourself in the instrumental serenity of "Sublime Ravings", be carried away by the sweeping tunefulness of "Rejecting The Limitations Of Fate", or almost literally spin round on the weird carousel that "Appointment With Death" is. Fifteen tracks in total, being all of them refined and substantial, filled with glossy programmed mutations and hooky driving rhythms, which in addition are pervaded by a wholly-owned, surrounding darkness that is well worth getting lost in.
Review by Billyphobia