Born Losers Records
Philly’s Night Sins have shifted through a suite of darker styles over the past decade. The journeyman act began with dark post-punk, shifted over to pure Leeds goth for a pair of records, and on 2019’s Portrait In Silver took a headlong journey into dark synthpop territory. Fifth LP Violet Age brings together most, if not all of the sounds the band has explored in the past to some solid ends, but often finds its reach to exceed its grasp.
Like its predecessor, Violet Age goes right down the pipe with stripped-down and direct tracks which put grooves and hooks right up front. When firing on all cylinders, as on “Kill Like I Do”, the sort of smoke-filled club sounds shot through with drum machines, second-wave goth rock riffs, and purple lighting feels incredibly tangible. I’ve been seeing a lot of comparisons between the record’s approach to goth and various Sisters classics, but for my money labelmates James Ray And The Performance are the much more productive touchstone. Like that act, on Violet Age‘s better moments synths and guitar find a driving equanimity and work in tandem to carry a dancefloor groove.
Regardless of provenance, the goth rock sounds of the record are often trading off with a darkly crooning strain of synthpop which, as on “Fantasy 21” and “Corium”, brings Body of Light and Kindest Cuts to mind. It’s in the details of the execution of that style that Violet Age goes awry. On their own, dark synthpop and classic goth rock can certainly be pulled off with lo-fi charm. But there’s something about the way that Violets Age combines the two that seems to call for more gloss and clarity of production than is generally used to finish off the tracks. The thumping drama of the title track (which brings to mind Moev in their more baroque moments) is let down by rote synth sounds and muddy production, which fail to give it the grandeur its style demands.
Whether these faults are the results of technical limitations or conscious artistic choices, it’s tough to not want more from Violet Age. The band have turned out some very enjoyable records (To London Or The Lake, Dancing Chrome) when their muse and method of execution are in harmony. Moreover, the higher points of the record indicate that there can be a record which brings all of Night Sins’ ambitions and influences into accord, even if Violet Age isn’t it.