Saturday, 23 April 2011
Vanbot - Vanbot
First, to get the obvious out of the way. Vanbot sounds like Robyn. A lot like Robyn. The similarity throws you for six when you first listen to her self titled debut album, but as you let it grow with you, the individuality works itself out and you realise her voice is actually sugared with a distinctiveness of its own. There's definitely more than a little of Kylie's sweetness to it, especially on the ballad Bad Day. An emotional tale of the pains of relationships, lines like 'the worst thing is that you don't miss me' cut straight to the heart. On an album that sounds as metallic and electronic as Vanbot's does, you might think emotions would be hard to portray with such intensity, but songs like Bad Day highlight just how it can be done, and with real power too.
It's hard to decide whether the album as a whole works more on a subtle level or as an all out pop record - it's a quality bands like a-ha made a career out of; radio-friendly pop hooks welded onto records of swirling, smoke-like natural wonder. For certain, on tracks like the single Make Me, Break Me, it errs straight into that all out pop camp. With its big, bold keyboard riffs, bubbling synth line and a chorus that soars the highest heights in terms of pop amazingness, it's a pure winner. The other single, Lost Without You follows in a similar vein, but here shapes itself around a snake-like, hypnotic mystical quality. If any of the tracks were exceptionally Robyn-esque, it's this one.
And when Vanbot wants to be, she can throw you hurtling onto the dancefloor too. Take album opener Ringing; as it plunges into the chorus the beats collide in a spectacular crash of kinetic energy. This is every inch the floorfiller, and there is an inherent groove to every track on the album; it creeps into your limbs, your whole body even - twitching away. And then there's the magestic, epic ambience of Bitter Is The Sweetest Part - this is the moment of the dancefloor caught in a second of endless frozen power.
The album drips in sonic references to New Order too, especially on Tired and Safe By The Numbers, the two tracks coming as a wonderful finale towards the albm's end. Like a lost treasure from New Order's Technique album, Tired sparks and bounds with synthetic energy. Part of the charm of Vanbot is just how many textures she works out from her sound, every track feels embued with some different essence. Icy, crystaline bells ring out in the final minute, an ecstacy of sheer beauty - the culmination of everything this album seeks to create.
Meanwhile, Safe By The Numbers melds that fragility with a surging, wavelike compressed guitar riff that picks you up in its intensity like a surfer caught adrift in a vast expanse of formless water. You're carried higher and higher on a wall of feeling and musical intensity. It's magic caught in a bottle of delicately carved glass, a slash of diamond glitter across a frozen lake. And as the album comes to a close and you rush to play it again, to emmerse yourself in it once more, you realise Vanbot has captured something completely and utterly beautiful here.
Vanbot is available to download on iTunes now.