It’s hard to recall an album quite so pointedly titled as Virginia Wing’s second. In the two years since 2014’s excellent ‘Measures Of Joy’, the band has lost a drummer, abandoned the psych and post-punk elements that characterised their old sound and reconfigured themselves as an avant-electronica duo. Forward constant motion indeed.
Don't mourn — this is one of the year's most exciting musical reinventions, one that sees the band embracing new possibilities rather than narrowing their sound. So, ‘Lily Of Youth’ opens the album with a lurching, industrial clatter. ‘ESP Offline’ and ‘Grapefruit’ recall The Knife’s funhouse mirror electro-pop. And LP highlight ‘Hammer A Nail’ contrasts a thin Oneohtrix Point Never-style synth line with a clanking, mechanical beat before erupting into a juddering breakdown. It’s brilliant.
But while the duo may have expanded their sonic palette, it’s Alice Merida Richards' distinctive vocals that give the record depth and weight. The Sadier-like detachment perfected on ‘Measures Of Joy’ is still very much in place, but there’s an understated warmth there that’s hugely affecting. When she sings “I thought I could trust my thoughts / But it seems / I keep drifting aimlessly," on the sparse, drifting ‘Sonia & Claudette’ there’s a real vulnerability, while ‘Grapefruit’ contrasts one of the album’s brightest melodies with a clear melancholy.
It’s an album of contrasts. Mechanical and organic. Avant-garde and pop. A harsh record, but also a beautiful — occasionally even optimistic — one. "You've got to keep ahead in this miserable world," Richards sings at one point. "Your time is too scarce to stay in one place." There's that call to constant motion again, one that Virginia Wing are pursuing with maniacal glee.
Words: Will Salmon
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