Velvet Acid Christ
My personal history with Velvet Acid Christ is spotty at best, and to be totally honest I was of two minds about writing about the new record Maldire. Like a lot of 90s scene kids, I have a great deal of affection for some selected bits of Bryan Erickson’s work, and Fun With Knives was specifically a seminal record for me in the latter part of that decade. That said, very little of his post-millennial output has had much of an impression on me, with the notable exception of some recent flirtations with neo-folk and an interesting cover of Edward Ka-Spel’s “Even Now” that dropped this year.
Reservations about my own ability to speak to VAC’s legacy or ongoing relevance aside, I think I can safely say two things: 1) Maldire is definitively a Velvet Acid Christ album: eleven tracks of evil, sample-laden electro-industrial without frills. And 2) if that’s what you’re looking for it to be, it should fit the bill just fine. Without wanting to sound snide, if you played it for me and told me it was a polished-up collection of Bryan’s old demos from the Calling Ov the Dead era, it would seem totally plausible. It’s almost as if he’s discarded any of the sounds and ideas that have worked their way into his work over the past fifteen years or so to return to a more prototypical version of his own sound.
So, taken on those terms, how is the record? Kinda hit or miss, really. I found myself surprisingly taken with the syncopated breakbeat and dark, grinding bassline of opener “Evoked”, its ultra-quantized synthline and processed vocals stirring up memories of some of Erickson’s classic downtempo numbers in a complimentary rather than derivative fashion. That sense of nostalgia works in the album’s favor a few more times. “Bend the Sky” and the first single and title-track “Maldire” both harness the moody atmospherics of VAC’s better moments, mixing tightly sequenced synths and reverbed pads in different ratios to equally pleasing effect. They’re none of them knock-outs on the level of “Futile”, or “Fun With Drugs”, or “Phucking Phreak” but they have a certain backwards looking charm to them that I can’t deny, or would want to for that matter.
The rest of the album fares less well. There’s some interesting bits on a few songs but nothing that elevates them beyond a baseline level of “alright”. The sing-songy vocal phrasing on “Ominous Rattle” makes it ringer for a latter-era :wumpscut: tune with all the baggage that comparison entails. Meandering instrumentals “HyperCurse” and “Septic Rinse” flirt with a few good ideas each but never lock them down enough to coalesce into anything interesting. “Inhale Blood” and “Christ Whore” (*sigh*) do the dancefloor thing well-enough, but it’s boilerplate stuff at best, their slightness exacerbated by some rote sound choices that fail to distinguish them from the songs surrounding them. There’s a broadness that sets in on the last third of Maldire that sucks the whole album down: even after numerous replays it’s difficult to find a foothold to support my own efforts to enjoy it.
Inconsistency has always plagued Velvet Acid Christ. Any given album has always had its share of totally uninspired (and occasionally outright bad) stretches to balance out the good ones. I suppose that makes Maldire a typical entry in the catalogue, its quality entirely dependent on the inclination of the listener to forgive its weaknesses. I have no doubt some folks will love it for what it does right, and I’m willing to meet them halfway: it’s not terrible, but it’s not that great either. It’s a VAC record, through and through.
This review is in line with my experiences with the album. It’s acceptable, I suppose. Definitely a VAC album, but it’s not pushing any envelopes. And the production seems a bit shoddy, actually. More than anything else it makes me miss older VAC releases (Calling/FWK era, the Funker remixes he did in Remix Wars Volume 79000). Even “Twisted Thought Generator” had it’s moments.
As an aside, the track “Christ Whore” seems like some sort of love letter to Wumpscut, or a pale imitation, both with the bassline and the lyrics (in texture and word). I almost regret purchasing this album from Metro. It arrived the same day as my copy of the Continues debut which, while living in a different zip code musically, puts it to absolute shame in terms of enjoyment. Sorry Bryan, one and a half tabs of acid down.