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VIolens and Pablo Picasso at the Knitting Factory on Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

I caught Violens on Wednesday night at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, a band that I was eager to see after naming their album “Amoral” my third favorite album of 2010 and I wasn't disappointed—they were tight and brought across their signature experimental, dreamy new wave style to near perfection, though occasionally the vocals were lost amidst the impressive sound layering.

 Bands like Violens make me a bit nervous when I see them live—with so much going on musically, there are ample opportunities to screw things up, both in the playing and on the soundboard. Thankfully, my fears were mostly unfounded, with the exception of the occasional aforementioned vocal track. Throughout the set, the band worked their compositions into a workable live format, sometimes tweaking a track to work in a live setting. Perhaps the most interesting sound bites of the night came when Elbrecht and guitarist/backup vocalist Myles Matheny would drop their singing duties to strum furiously away to an awesome crescendo, while keyboardist Iddo Arad provided the appropriate synth for such a moment. Aside from the vocal issue, my only complaints were the somewhat awkward pauses between songs, which for some reason just didn’t feel right—maybe you had to be there. Overall, though, the band sounded good.

 Violens got the crowd moving with fan favorites “Acid Reign” and “Violent Sensation Descends,” the haunting, synth-laden, near-gothic track with the great music video. Violens’ impressive diversity comes across with songs like “Violent Sensation Descends,” which is perhaps best contrasted with a song like the pop-infused “Full Collision”; Elbrecht told Interview magazine at one point that among his far flung influences, he is very much influenced by Norweigan black metal—a man after my own heart.

 As much as I enjoyed Violens, the surprise of the night and arguable show stealer was opener Pablo Picasso. The Brooklyn foursome plays a sometimes sparse, pensive, and brooding rhythmic style that reminded me of certain songs by Portland, Oregon’s Floater, and at other times a crushing, guitar-and-bass-in-unison, bruising style. Lead singer Darius Greyson sounds like a hybrid of Type O Negative’s Peter Steele, Jim Morrison, and the Editor’s Tom Smith, with a pinch of raspiness thrown in. Greyson, who is a rail-thin, five-foot-eight, seems an odd vessel to harbor such a voice, but his stage presence and haunting, love-and-loss lyrics are so captivating that any initial surprise on the part of a viewer will quickly turn to awe. The band likewise was enthralling; the guitarist and bassist rocked in their corners of the stage and the drummer pounded his drums with a rage that cannot be described. Pablo Picasso, which exists to perform in a live setting and essentially brushes recording to the side, has their LP available for download at their website.  Check them out, they put on an incredible show.

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