Violet Indiana

Casino

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AllMusic Review by

Those who were in the know and scored the first Brit-only Violet Indiana disc, Roulette, got their first taste of former Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie's shimmering guitarscapes and ex-Mono vocalist Siobhan De Maré's singular vocals entwining in a tragic marriage of loss, heartbreak, and obsession all wrapped in a heartbreakingly beautiful package. The three (also import-only) EPs furthered the band's rep to the point where they had to get something out stateside -- Casino is it. For the faithful it may be a bit of a let down in that it only features three new tracks, but it also puts all three EPs handily onto one disc as a consolation and features a video of "Killer Eyes." While comparisons to the Cocteaus are inevitable, with all due respect, Ms. De Maré's voice doesn't have the swooping, soaring quality of Elizabeth Fraser's (but whose does?), but she is more suited to the darker visions Mr. Guthrie has longed to put into his music. While tunes like "Jailbird," "Purr la Perla," "Poppy," and "Torn Up" have the wistful atmospherics one has come to expect from Mr. Guthrie, they are tempered with an obsessive malevolence and an over-the-top excess of raw emotion. "Bang Bang" is the account of a woman catching her husband in an act of adultery in their wedding bed. And as such, she is moved to kill the other woman. As guitars move -- ringing, slithering, and slipping in and out of a textured wall of white-out -- Ms. De Maré sings as if this moment were calculated; she acts as if it's her only choice and does the violent act with a swagger and a hint of a smile. On the other side of the coin is the band's non-tongue-in-cheek cover of Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas" (If You Go Away); genuine unconditional love is laid out at the other's feet amid the reverbed swirl of Guthrie's guitars, keyboards, and drums. Marianne Faithfull could have covered this and it actually sounds as if her presence and inspiration are being evoked here. The final track, "Heaven," offers a glimpse of an optimism so fragile it is barely allowed to exist; De Maré's vocals strut down in the velveteen gutters with Mr. Guthrie's Bataillean vision of sex, heartbreak, and excess. This is a breath of cognac- and cigarette-scented air on an almost-dead pop scene.

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