VNV Nation

Matter + Form

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VNV Nation has been essentially a vehicle for the songwriting of Ronan Harris since its inception in 1990; as of 2005, the group seems to be presenting itself as a duo -- the unidentified second person in the insert photo is probably producer Humate, who lends a special elegance to most of the tracks on this fine album. Elegance? Believe it or not, yes -- though Harris works well within the general stylistic boundaries of chilly EBM, his sound is unusually warm and at times downright pretty. "Arena" is one of the hookiest and most nakedly emotional songs ever to be released on the Metropolis label, while "Colours of Rain" is, as its title suggests, a gentle and impressionistic instrumental piece of subtle beauty. (Another instrumental piece, "Interceptor" is a bit less gentle and a bit less interesting, but still well worth a listen.) "Entropy" is unfortunately aptly titled and "Endless Skies" never really gets off the ground, and throughout the album the lyrics are generally of the type that sound good to people who think they understand English idioms better than they actually do ("Throw away the mantle/Awake from your uncertain hesitation," etc.), but Harris deserves credit for bringing a rare level of subtlety and human warmth to a genre whose artists all too often fall back on easy clich├ęs and facile, manufactured outrage. Recommended.

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