This intro paragraph went through four drafts, because of all the ways I’ve tried to describe this album, Violet Cold’s new LP kOsmik goes far beyond “remarkable” or “exciting” or “bold” or “unique.” No, to me, kOsmik can be best described as the soundtrack to a rocket being fired into the sun, on purpose, because the only other option is something far scarier.
My first listen to this record was like being immersed in a deprivation tank. I felt like Eleven in Stranger Things, floating in dark water, searching out a monster against all sense and reason. But kOsmik is not calling out for the Demogorgon; no, this record reaches for an Elder God—a nameless horror so massive and powerful that we cannot begin to comprehend what awaits us when Violet Cold’s reverberating metallic masterpieces finally shake that beast awake.
As a whole, kOsmik sounds like the evacuation of Earth—the songs move like ships through space, some cruising at a gentle drift while others tear through fields of debris at desperate speeds. Violet Cold sews dynamic shifts both between and amid their songs; the speed-picking driving “Mamihlapinatapai” lapses into a dreamy bridge halfway through the tune, while the opening track’s soft ascending chords soon burst into a full, heavy blast of sound. This constant and aggressive juxtaposition of loud and soft, calm and cruel, keeps kOsmik flowing like a swift river of sonic force carving peaks and valleys in the brain.
Perhaps the best example of this Violet Cold’s dynamic control is “Black Sun,” whose intro writhes with double-bass and atmospheric leads before collapsing into a quiet and disturbing B-section. Dark guitar riffs wander across the track while a ghostly feminine voice chants between them as if attempting to summon Cthulhu himself. This strange bridge lulls the listener into a trance, until the void is suddenly filled with a rush of distorted chords and thundering blast beats that usher in the song’s climactic ending.
kOsmik is a maelstrom of undulating instrumentation, and the vocals coating this record are treated with the same attention and attitude. Whether guttural roars or autotuned melodics, Violet Cold always seats the vocals well within the mix, utilizing them more like an atmospheric flourish than the center of attention. Droning growls ride alongside ringing guitars in “Space Funeral,” each stretching note reminiscent of the rumblings of a waking god. The varying samples dotting the opening track “Contact” remind me of intercepted radio chatter as they flit around the song without taking the spotlight. “Mamihlapinatapai” counterpoints harsh vocals with ethereal feminine crooning, smashing dark and light together without giving preference to either.
This method of using vocals like an instrument might be seen as dangerous to some. The human voice is the touchstone into music, the repository for the story or emotion of a composition. Without that key, music can be come cold, distant, and near-inaccessible. But Violet Cold doesn’t delete the humanity from their tunes; rather, they draw the humanity out from them. The vocals, the guitar, the swelling synths, even the aggressive percussion: they are all equals on kOsmik, creating a bottomless well of sound from which the emotion arises.
This experience is best captured in the album’s penultimate and eponymous track. “kOsmik” wields aggressive blast beats and layer upon layer of ethereal guitar, pushing dark chord progressions topped with raucous screams. This abrasive onslaught of sound seems almost too much to bear, until the final minute when a powerful feminine voice swoops in, bringing a power-pop attitude to the grindy composition. This singular decision absolutely reverses the energy of the song, taking an oppressive and dark atmosphere and illuminating it with sonic fire. This approach to the human voice as an instrument allows the whole of Violet Cold’s compositions to bloom in the ears, imparting deep and immersive experience without forcing a focal point on the listener.
For music allegedly composed by artificial intelligence, kOsmik has no trouble capturing a range of human emotion and experience. The performances are vicious and vital, the compositions vivid and vibrant. kOsmik plays like a transmission fired into the cosmos, a call through the great unknown to anyone or anything that’s listening. And I will be the first on that sun-bound rocket when the response comes.
My Top Track: “Mamihlapinatapai”
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