The High Violets are our favourite high-priests of Dreampop! They have been around since 1998, way before the “second wave” or nugaze, and have risen to somewhat of a Sainthood by now. The fact that they haven’t released anything since 2010 just adds to their already legendary proportions ( esp. in the US), and I would rather put them in the same shrine as shoegaze idols Slowdive, Pale Saints and Chapterhouse than with our so-called nugaze acts.
Since their last album Cinema was released in 2010 things have been a bit quiet. Frontman Clint Sargentexplains what they did in the meantime and if the think the time has influenced their sound in any way :
“Basically we had been active nonstop mostly since we started when we came out with Cinema. So we took a little break for a year or so. We then decided to make a new record and it was at that time too that St. Marie approached us. So we began work and it took 3 years to make.
As far as the sound changing. Things were done differently. We moved into other areas working more in some cases with minor chords and also in our approach to writing. We were more experimental with the technologies at our disposal. This was also the first time all the songs were recorded before any had been performed.”
“Heroes and Halos” starts with a bang : the single “How I love (everything about you )” has Kaitlyn ni Donovan confessing her adoration backed by divine organs and blissful guitars. In “Long Last Night” Kaitlyn sounds equally rapturous and pure over gossamer layers of shimmery jangle & delay.
The religious imagery continues in “Bells” ( We are all beautiful & in your eyes It’s not a reason to covet or despise To be a photo of grace I can try it) where ringing guitar patterns a la Johnny Marr are set against baggy drum-beats.
“Heroes and Halos” is a lofty Cocteau Cathedral that reminds of the soaring experience of the Telescopes’ “Flying”. I hear shards of “Life’s what you make it”( Talk Talk) and “How Soon is Now” ( Smiths) in “Comfort in Light” where emotions rise and guitars crash and shimmering effects whirl around us and Kaitlyn’s diaphanous voice summons “call my name”……
The medieval waltz “Hearts in our Throats” sounds like the morning after the a Holy Battle: morning sun rising; eyes blinking, surrounded by the dead we take stock, collect our strength and go home with dragging, slow steps and a heavy heart.
“Heroes and Halos” is a resplendent epic that would still very much appeal to lovers of dreampop, 4AD etc, but Slowdive and Lush were certainly not the most obvious references that came to mind, as shown above. I think their scope is much broader these days: more mellow, more poised. The legendary High Violets have returned to take their place in the canon of Dreamgaze.