Menu | Rating System | Guest Book
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
(Older reviews archived alphabetically by artist name.)

  Venice Is Sinking  
  One Percent Press  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:

Like other Evil Sponge reviewers, I'm a bit thrown off by the digital music phenomenon. This new approach includes giving reviewers digital only copies of music to review. Iím sure it's cheaper and reflects accurately the way things are done now. However, I'm a total Luddite. I like physical objects, because it seems to me an album doesn't really exist unless I have it in my hands. Then again, you have to remember I read an old-fashioned newspaper every day, so Iím a bit weird. Nevertheless, it seems to me that it's a lot harder to review releases as albums when the tunes are mixed up randomly on the iPod.

That a roundabout way of saying that the object at hand, Venice is Sinking's record Azar, is really an album in the best sense of the world and should be listened to as such (and not just as a random, formless collection of songs). To go back a few steps, for those of you not familiar with this band, Venice is Sinking is an Athens, GA, five piece who have been around for sometime, although they've only released two albums, including Azar.

The best tracks on Azar are, in fact, the more upbeat songs, such as the opening one-two punch of Ryan's Song and Okay. Ryan's Song begins with a gentle keyboard bit backed by some light guitar picking. Over this all, vocalist Daniel Lawson's slightly reedy vocals mix in a fairly delicate manner with violinist Karolyn Troupe's higher-pitched soprano. Underneath, there is a slight bass beat with the lightly brushed snare drumming of Lucas Jensen. It's a pretty, gentle tune that has a dreamy feel, courtesy of the vocals. In contrast, Okay has an upbeat (for Venice is Sinking) pace, but again features the mixed vocals of Lawson and Troupe. Nevertheless, the instrumentation on this song is more full sounding with the drums coming across as more well-rounded and the tune itself enhanced by some horn work. More than any other tune on the record, Okay really has a Headlights-y feel, with its bouncy, slightly mournful vocals contrasting with the more driving tune.

However, most of the album has a more ambient pace than those two songs. As an example, the conceptual instrumentals (aptly titled Azar One, Azar Two, Azar Three, and Azar Four) which space out the recird, have a chilly, almost minimalist expression that contrasts with the warmness of the vocal-enhanced tunes. As mood setting pieces, they work well as transitions and punctuations, moving the album from one set to another. In contrast, Iron Range sounds like a fully realized song that just happens to lack vocals for much of its length . Instead, for the first couple of minutes, the "vocal" lines seem to be held down by Troupe's violin and Lawson's guitar. During this part, the tune reminds me a bit of My Education in the way the various instruments ebb and flow. Even with the vocals eventually come in around the 3 minute mark, they act as another instrument, blending in within the horns and drums. It's a lovely piece that effectively draws the listener into a special mindset, where there is nothing except this beautiful music.

Even the slowest vocally driven songs on Azar have something to offer. For instance, the tune Wetlands Dancehall begins with Troupe vocalizing in a way that recalls some of the earlier work of Asobi Seksu, before Venice Is Sinking break into a gentle 6/8 swaying tune which has a slight early 60s country/reverbed feel. Likewise, album closer Charm City combines the ambiance of the instrumental pieces with the haunted feel of the more vocal tunes. It feels like a lost track from Knife in the Water's early years with its darkly deliberate pacing and emphatic vocal chorus over the martial drums, that slowly becomes more intense as the vocals layer over themselves to swell into a cathartic ending.

Reading my commentary above, you might be forgiven for thinking that my original assertion is a bit a misnomer. Since my own review skips around between songs, it might be hard to figure out why I think this is an excellent album in the classic sense. However, to really appreciate the moodiness of the recording, one really needs to begin the instrumental sparseness of Azar One and listen to it transition into the more upbeat Ryan's Song, which then transitions into the next tune. And so on and so on, until you eventually reach the final ending. As such, Azar offers itself as a physical object whose more delicate moments could easily be lost in this instant gratification era of digital downloads and single-track plays.

Related Links:

Label Website:
Artist Website:
Artist MySpace:
Also on EvilSponge:
    Festival Performance: The 2006 Other Sound Festival - Day 1


Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Album Review menu.