Let's just cut to the chase: if you have bothered to look up
a review of Roulette on The Web, chances are that
you are a Cocteau Twins fan (or "Twin-kie" in the lingo) and
you want to know how the latest project of Cocteau guitar-wizard
Robin Guthrie turned out. Well, what did you think of the Choke
That's the key here -- this is not a Cocteau Twins album.
It is, instead, the second Violet Indiana release. I know it's
hard to accept that reality (believe me, i know) but there it
is. That said, Roulette is a better realization
of the sultry voice and swirling guitar jazz/shoegazer fusion
that Violet Indiana introduced on Choke.
I say "better realization" because it seems as if Choke
was tentative -- like the first few baby steps in a new direction.
Roulette, on the other hand, is a todler -- confident
and ready to explore and wander. The music is clear and full.
I would say that much of this music seems a logical evolution
of "The Guthrie Style". It's light and dreamy like Touch
Upon Touch, the final released Cocteau Twins recording.
It seems as if Mr. Guthrie is continuing his own evolution with
this new band. So what does that mean? Well, consider the following
comparison: if the music of Cocteau Twins is a rampant and psychedlic
fever dream full of vibrant colors and exotic soundscapes, then
the music of Violet Indiana is the nice relaxing and envigorating
dream you have after crashing hard from a full days work. Both
are different, and both have their place. Neither is better,
you need both types of dreams to survive and control your subconscious.
That said, anyone who picks up Roulette expecting
a follow-up to Victorialand is going to be disappointed.
However, if you pick this up expecting a follow-up to Milk
And Kisses you won't be far off the mark. The slow swirling
pop sound of that album is a precursor to the sound of Violet
But it is important to remember that Violet Indiana is a collborative
duo. The other individual is Siobhan DeMare. Ms. DeMare has
a nice enough voice. It is lower pitched than that of Cocteau
Twin ELizabeth Frazier, but it is a fine instrument. DeMare
also has good control over her voice.
Guthrie's guitars and DeMare's voice work together nicely.
Her full, throaty singing has a hint of the sultry nightclub
jazz element to it, and the massive amounts of slow tremolo
and delay that Guthrie buries the guitars under has that same
hint. It works.
There are some lovely tracks on this album. Particularly interesting
are Sundance with its sublime guitar work and DeMare's
plaintive, repeated cry of "What was i supposed to say?". Despite
the chorus, it is not an angry or upset song. Her delivery of
the words is more exasperated than anything.
The album closer, Killer Eyes is a typical Guthrie closer
-- it starts slow then builds to a real cathartic frenzy. It
seems as if Guthrie tries to end all of his albums this way,
which is very cool with me. At any rate, i would say that this
song does the whole "slow intro to faster body to frenzied end"
thing better than anything Guthrie has done since Frou-frou
Foxes In Midsummer Fires in 1990. It's pretty impressive,
and the difference, i think, is DeMare -- her voice really rises
to the sheer wall of guitar sound quite nicely. Her singing
serves as a counterpoint to the guitar wall -- the two sounds
entwine and dance together in the noise.
Real Cocteau fans are probably wondering if any songs contain
traces of that old Guthrie guitar magic. Well, Air Kissing
features a bridge that seems to come from Heaven Or Las
Vegas, Little Echo seems to pay homage to Echoes
In A Shallow Bay, and Hiding also bears a direct
lineage to the guitar sound on Heaven Or Las Vegas.
So there are some sounds that will seem familiar, but the overall
context is very different, and that takes some getting used
It's worth it though -- when i first got this album i was not
that impressed. But i keep coming back to it, and it has really
grown on me. It takes some getting used to, but the music is
really really pretty.
And i think it took some getting used to because i was hoping
for a follow-up to Victorialand. I couldn't help
it. Which is why i warn you to approach with an open mind. The
music is rewarding, but you have to let it come to you on its
I have been thinking about this a lot as i have listened to
this album and grown to like it more and more. I think that
my initial lack of excitement was caused by the desperate need
to cling to some similarity. Change is a frightening thing,
and losing a band as deeply personal and emotional as the Cocteau
Twins is, well, it's a tragedy.
And there is an element of sadness in the layers of guitars
and voice that make up Roulette. Sadness at the
passing of things, as if there is acknowledgement of the fan's
need to grieve.
But there is also a good bit of excitement -- excitement at
suddenly having all possibilities opened up. The exhilaration
of pure freedom. Life, as they say, moves on.
So i do not hesitate to strongly recommend this album to any
Cocteau Twins fan. Fans of the Trip-hop genre and fans of strong
female singing will also quite like it.