After three years of near-silence, Valerinne has burst into 2016 with two remarkable releases: a split with dark-ambient/drone act TAUUSK and their most ambitious LP so far, the aptly titled “Monumenta”. I say aptly titled because the record is truly monumental in scope, both from a compositional and from a purely sonic point of view.
The first thing that comes to mind when first being introduced to “Monumenta” is the decidedly darker direction that Valerinne are pursuing on this record in comparison to their previous LP – “Arborescent”. Right off the bat, the opening track, titled “Edifice”, is brimming with menace – a fast, fierce, precise groove which almost serves as a warning – “beware of sharp edges, intense solar glare and abrasive surfaces”. And so it is, throughout the album as a whole, with stoic relentlessness.
RELEASE DATE: 11 February 2016 LABEL: Self-released
In fact, I would say consistency is one of the great assets that Valerinne has, as a group. The DNA of their sound remains largely the same as in previous releases: the muscular rhythm section, tense and driven, the overwhelming, vast volume and array of textures Alexandru Daș channels through his guitar, the incremental architecture of the songs – all of these are preserved and instantly recognizable. However, their vectors have evolved, their approach is more refined, their aesthetic has been distilled into another essence. Where „Arborescent” relied on more organic structures and shoegaze influences, „Monumenta” alludes to a metallic skeleton under a concrete surface. Where there once were huge swaths of tidal ambient noise, now there are towering, structured dynamic sculptures, slowly revolving in the wind and catching the sunlight in dazzling displays of feedback and reverb.
This is a very visual album, so much so that it may occasionally induce vertigo. From this perspective, I would go so far as to say this record has distinct concept-album qualities, exploring an urban landscape from the most minute details to their most far-reaching implications, all while managing to keep an objective, almost scientific detachment. In stark opposition to many of the stereotypical post-rock tropes (which, in all fairness, have been largely abandoned as of late, even by the bands which seemed to prompt them in the first place), „Monumenta” does not rely on emotional swells, nor does it resort to pulling heart strings in an attempt to convey gravitas or any sort of critical message. Rather, the band seems to adopt an attitude of cool reflection, as though somewhere beneath the storm of metallic, incandescent sparks, concrete dust, debris and glass shards, somewhere under the choking scent of heated asphalt and beyond the glare of sunlight reflected from ten thousand windows, there lies the smooth surface of a mirror, and we are listening to the sound of all of this chaos being reflected from it’s placid, rectangular perimeter.
Perhaps the production adds to this sentiment of detachment, as every instrument sounds both larger than life and somewhere far removed. Without trying to be paradoxical, I feel the record is made of vast sonic spaces which superimpose to create an ominous feeling of claustrophobia. I attribute this oxymoron to the clash between the production provided by underground veteran Marius Costache (of the band Environments) and the structure of the songs in terms of composition. It’s really quite satisfying when the various elements of a record seem to balance on each-other in such a cause-and-effect sort of way, especially when the results are so unexpected and jarring. However, I can’t help but wonder whether the album would have had a little more clarity had the drum sound been a little less expanded, a little dryer. As it is, Liviu Stoicescu’s bass acts almost like a lifeline within the maelstrom of guitar feedback and the distant, tectonic pulse of the drums. In fact, Valerinne seem to have been completely aware of the tremendous role the bass will be playing on “Monumenta”, and have built one of the most ferocious, infectious, overwhelmingly powerful segments of the album on a positively thundering bass riff, on the closing track, titled “Downstream”.
I thoroughly recommend this record to anyone seeking a dark, cold, intellectual approach to post-rock, rife with some of the most massive sounds ever to burst forth from one guitar and some of the most relentless, trance-inducing, almost tribal rhythm sections I’ve heard in recent years. And I can especially recommend seeing the band perform live, as they take some liberties with certain segments of their songs and somehow manage to expand the sound tsunami even further. Enjoy!