Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vaura @ Wierd


Vaura’s debut at Wierd last night brought out a range of dark music devotees all poised to encounter this strange, new beast. While there are no recorded tracks available for public consumption yet, this show and the band’s September debut at Lit help to flesh out a few initial impressions of the foursome’s unique sound.

Vaura weaves a wicked metallic skein of dense shoegaze atmospherics pierced by the thrash of rapid fire riffs and overlaid with classic post-punk vocals both dark in delivery and singular in thrust. It’s a collision of genres that’s difficult to describe, but the evocative aura of the music has a bleak, cruel romance pulsing at its core. While guitarist Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia, Jarboe, Gorguts) and bassist Toby Driver (Kayo Dot, Tartar Lamb, maudlin of the Well) come from experimental and metal backgrounds, drummer Charlie Schmid (Religious to Damn) and singer/guitarist Josh Strawn (Blacklist, Religious to Damn) bring sweeping, melancholic rock to the table. And despite imagery and ethos that may imply otherwise, Strawn’s disavowals of the band’s place in the new wave of black metal serve only to reveal Vaura’s barrier breaking intent and may paradoxically confirm their status as true black believers in the end.

The name Vaura itself holds the key to many of the fecund, contradictive qualities within the music. It’s a winking orificial allusion that emphasizes their forceful feminine insertion of warmer, brighter tones into the steely strictures that constrain (and often limit) thrash, black, and death metal. Within this (v)aurality, there is a dynamic interplay between Hufnagel’s intense, precise guitar lines invoking a masculine, controlled rationality, and Strawn’s clean, emotive vocals with often indistinguishable lyrics that suggest a primal, pre-linguistic return of feminine, corporeally-driven feeling. But lest one get too entrenched in binaries that cut off the bloodflow, the few excellently placed larynx-shredding screams that break up Strawn’s delivery rip the listener from this womb state. These moments serve to (c)literalize the clash of gendered aurality in theory and provide a soundtrack for the collision of sexed bodies in practice.

Vaura sounds like the violent upheaval of wars waged below the waist. With a balance of melody and brute force, there’s none of that clichéd hypermasculine parade of aggression that can be too clumsy to reach those untouched nether regions where labels devolve and dissolve into sounds of pure pleasure. Vaura’s irruption onto a scene badly in need of cross-pollination is a welcome one. The band’s first official release can’t come too soon.

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