The Clientele: The Violet Hour

The Clientele: The Violet Hour

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The Clientele

Album: The Violet Hour
Label: Merge

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The title of The Clientele's The Violet Hour is as much an act of self-description as the title of the preceding singles collection Suburban Light. The U.K. group makes low, twinkly music, distinguished by the breathy voice and reverb-heavy guitar of Alasdair MacLean, with the muted swing of bassist James Hornsey and drummer/pianist Mark Keen cruising beneath the echo. The Clientele's sound aims to invoke the feeling of a twilight daydream, as kids play outside and parents nod off on the porch. In "When You And I Were Young," MacLean meanders through images of rain on windows and neighborhood parks "glowing dimly" while behind him the music recalls the jaunty melodicism of Donovan-esque folk-pop, the spine-tingling guitar runs of The Velvet Underground, and the soft boom of post-Jesus And Mary Chain post-punk. The mix of styles casts an eye to The Clientele's collective past, noting the shades and moods that coalesce into the memory of some perfect childhood moment. "Missing" is even more touching in its obsessive re-assembly of old records and old sensations, as it puts an unearthly, Leonard Cohen-derived acoustic ballad through a series of unpredictable structural and lyrical changes, fumbling toward an explanation of the inexplicable. That song also makes the best use of MacLean's double-tracked vocals, which sometimes match closely to create a choral effect, and sometimes drift out of sync for harmony's sake, or to give the sense of a man retracing steps and losing his way. Suburban Light grew a little wearying because of a tonal similarity in songs recorded over a period of years, but The Violet Hour sounds deeper and more deliberate, enveloping its listeners like a fast-rolling fog.

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