Viva Voce – Rose City

roses Rating: ★★★☆☆

Portland, Oregon duo Viva Voce spent the past few years building, creating new things.  First, they created their own backyard studio, perfect for the husband/wife combo to record new tracks.  They continued the building process by adding two permanent members to their line-up, solidifying the group for the recording of an entirely new album.  That new album is titled Rose City, and it demonstrates a band experimenting with their proven recipe for tunes, as the band travel to sonic regions not explored in the past.

Once the album opens with the lead track “Devotion” it becomes rather clear that this isn’t the same group you came across back in the day.  Distortion billows from the guitar this round, and the percussion has this permanent beating echo that seems ominously powerful.  For the first time, Kevin Robinson sounds like someone other than himself, as his voice comes across like a man covering Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.  It’s fitting to the music, which explains the change in delivery, as the sound has clearly changed.

“Die a Little” seems a tad bit like what you would expect from this band. It’s rather catchy, and the bobbing bass lines that go throughout keep you tapping your foot at the base of your chair.  Also, vocal duties are split between Kevin and Anita Robinson, so it approaches the aesthetics of the male/female vocal a bit more. Even so, there exists a boundary of sound and feedback the band has yet to explore.

Once you come across a song like “Midnight Sun” you can imagine what the songwriting process was like; the band seems to be painting sounds upon a blank canvas, filling empty space with various elements so that the album sounds full, yet not repetitive in the least bit, allowing for the empty space to resonate with a sound all its own.  But, you can juxtapose that with “Good as Gold,” which seems to take a line or two from the Pixies closet of bass lines, not that anyone could get upset by that.  This song takes on a more traditional Viva Voce feel since it doesn’t seem to have as much of the sonic exploration even though some of the guitar parts have a new sharpness to them.  Just make sure you save yourself for “Flora,” a song that comes at the butt of the album.  There is something spectacular about this song that just yanks at your emotions.  It’s one of the moments that really makes this album worth listening to for repeated listens.

There are some misguided moments here and there throughout this album, which one owes to the band’s desire to explore new sonic elements.  You have to respect that, and you have to hope that the promise that clearly exists on this album will only be pushed further with future recordings, as this album clearly has great moments worthy of your ears.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/09-flora-1.mp3]

Download: Viva Voce – Flora [MP3]

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