Friday, 16 April 2010
Cult Bands - The Violet Hour
On this basis, an album that qualifies for cult status is ‘The Fire Sermon’ by Leeds-based band, The Violet Hour, released in 1991 and smartly withdrawn in 1992, soon after their break-up. The Violet Hour began life in 1988 when keyboardist Markus Waite met guitarist Martyn Wilson. Andrew Fox then joined on bass and Sean Holborn became the eventual drummer. But they needed a singer and one soon arrived in the form of Leeds University student, Doris Brendel and thus The Violet Hour was born.
Fast forward to 2010 and my link is formed when an email from Doris arrives in my inbox. It turns out that she is acquainted with my muso brother, Dave who has pointed her in my direction on the basis that I might like her music. To cut to the chase, she has sent me a copy of ‘The Fire Sermon’, which was finally re-released by Sky-Rocket records in September last year, and I am beginning to understand what cults are all about because this is one beautiful album.
Back in 1991, its sound was compared to that of contemporaries, All About Eve and there is definitely a degree of similarity but whereas AAE was Julianne Regan’s velvet claw in the iron glove of a macho band, The Violet Hour is almost the reverse – a sort of iron claw in a velvet glove. Doris’s vocals are much earthier and bluesier than Julianne’s and give an emotional centre around which the band’s complex arrangements swirl and glide. If anything, I would say that this album was released 20 years too late. It belongs to the era of blues and classically influenced progressive rock where bands like Jefferson Airplane, Caravan and early Renaissance stalked the earth. There are reminders of early Genesis in the use of flute and piano as well as injections of Celtic folk via violin and pipes. More importantly, it belongs to an era when bands comprised real musicians who wrote melodic, yet challenging music and then arranged and played it with genuine competence.
It is easy to see why the Velvet Hour was compared with their forebears from the 60s and 70s but they were also a band of their own time. In the late 80s and early 90s the music world was split between Grunge and Pop, yet there was a third genre underlying the main battle and it was the so-called ‘shoegazers’. My own favourites, Lush, were amongst their number which also included The Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine and Ride. These bands were the aural architects, the dream-poppers and The Violet Hour has real overtones of this type of music. Personally, I liked this period in musical history and that is probably why I like this album, but then I Iike music that is well written and performed with soul – who doesn’t?
If you’d like to know more about The Velvet Hour and Doris Brendel, visit her site at http://www.dorisbrendel.com/ where you can hear excerpts of this album and all her solo work to date. Well worth a visit. She also has a page at www.myspace.com/dbdriving where you can find more details about her solo stuff and up-coming album, 'The Last Adventure'.
Also, don’t forget that my brother’s band, The Yarmouth Honeys, are still operational and you can learn about them and hear tracks at Dave Warminger’s MySpace site.
Oh yeah, and if you'd like to read more about my views on music don't forget my book, 'Memoirs of a Music Obsessive'.