Most modern post-punk can expect a steady flow of criticism for sounding a bit too familiar. Everybody’s a bit bored of its broody shtick, sentimentally clinging to the past. No-one has re-invented the wheel in a very long time and most guitar bands of the ilk are in some way confined to the success of Joy Division, The Cure or The Fall. Venn aren’t having it though. The band have crafted a sound that defies most genre codes and reaches forward with frightening urgency.
Based between Berlin and London, the mysterious three-piece have come out of nowhere with an album that might just become a game-changer. Runes explores the aural space that many fear to enter, breathing life into the nothingness and finding beauty in its dread. Rattling, industrial drumbeats, relentless chugging basslines, and slowly gliding synthesisers – they’re all here and clearer than ever. Let’s just say a debut this strong is well overdue.
The band soar into the ether with ‘Legacy Project’, a track that builds and morphs into something effortlessly catchy, with the vocals declaring “I fake my own death, I lie to my friends, I want you to feel what it’s like to lose another”, setting the bleak dial to 10. ‘Esalen 64’ peels open a tiny window of light, proceeding with a repetitive synthpop loop and soaring into a krautrock dream where distorted guitars sound like saxophone solos. Elsewhere, ‘A Waxen Palm’ dances around in a gust of reverb. ‘Bigger Fiction’ and ‘Supernature’ contain some of the best hooks on the album, careering through a star-less Kubrickian cosmos with motoric intensity.
In many ways Runes is an album that walks the thin line between emptiness and clutter – never falling into the latter’s messy depths. The tracks are diverse and standalone. ‘Dave Land’ is like the soundtrack to a particularly rainy scene from the film Blade Runner, wandering through the urban back-alleys in a drunken daze. But it’s ‘Real Blood’ that literally gets the blood pumping. There’s something hair-raising about the track, chugging along on the periphery of minimalism, channelling Pixies and The Soft Moon in equal measure. “Real blood, I bleed real blood! Nothing will last forever” declare the chorus vocals with urgency and meaning, guitars wailing and bending at the fore. Runes is the kind of album The Horrors would have made if they kept their Goth gear on for a little longer. It’s an album that reminds you of the past but never relies on it. Venn manage to combine ethereal sparseness with a fulfilling and uplifting sense of being and its devastatingly infectious.