Monday, March 13, 2006

a Violet Burning classic

For anyone looking for some good music, here's my review of a classic I both hope you've heard of (If there's any justice, you should have!), and haven't (there's nothing more fun than introducing someone to life-changing music!). If you read this review, and think "I could take it or leave it," don't fear so soon! The Violet Burning have eight CDS out, and they all amazingly capture a variety of styles. Every CD is a surprise...and a good one. Like the new one, test-drivable here

Photos of the Violets at are church in 2004. I told Skibster that day I must've been dreaming; I'd likely pass out at the end. In fact, here's a photo of me my dad took at about that moment. Why don't you see Skibster in the pic? He must have been on the floor.


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful: Sometimes Even Plastic is Elastic, December 27, 2003

Violet Burning's "Demonstrates Plastic and Elastic," a sneak-up-on-you and amazing classic may not work for everbody, but I believe that anybody who gives it a chance and time will eventually see it work its way into your life few like few other musical offerings can even begin to. The Violet Burning's fourth full length release, builds on and transcending all that went before: "Chosen"'s groundbreaking passion; "Strength," the first and finest modern worship album (only eight years ahead of its time), and the self-titled CD's grungy, gut-wrenching (and guitar-wrenching), brutally honest psalms and heartbreak.

The pressing and practical problem for record-store folks is where to file this CD..which is preciseky the genius and point of this offering. Is it rock or is it worship? Yes. Is it punk or ballad? Believe it or not; both/and! No contradiction; just paradox. Or maybe a contradiction..but who cares? But the real genre breakdown, and interpretive key to this layered and intriguing work is spelled out as early as the title ("Is this CD plastic or elastic?" "Yes, both, precisely)" Michael Pritzl, who basically "is" the Violets, was inspired to have his band cut this CD after returning from Berlin and seeing a sign reading "Plaste und Elaste"..that is, "Plastic and elastic." This sign triggered his thoughts that life, relationships, romance and faith are
sometimes divided into "plastic" experiences and songs (fun, maybe superficial and throwaway party stuff), and "elastic" items (flexible, fluid, stretching, deep, profound, emotional to the max). So about half the songs are at heart "plastic": fun, rollicking rockers like "Moon Radio," "Berlin Kitty", "I'm No Superman".."new-wavish" songs and "single jingles" that stick like crazy in your head, and are fantastic in concert; but songs I confess skipping often on this CD in favor of the "other half" : very "elastic" and ultimately astonishing. elongated, ethereal beautiful and at times almost-impossible to deal with emotive "feeling" songs; both in lyric and guitar. Like "She Says Electric" (a song about ..among other things, that is..Remember that plastic "stretches" thematically) what a friend told Pritzl it feels like to be lost in worship.."I am electric..face to the sun."; "Oceana," (about ..on some listenings and levels another friend leads him closer to God, and "Gorgeous" (most days my favorite song of basically, well..nothing less than all time..tied with "Goldmine" from the previous VB CD and "Song of the Harlot" from "Strength" ....a song I believe invokes how God feels about us.."I feel so much the distance in your eye..You won't catch me that way.. You're gorgeous".

But it's the last two songs, "We Close Our Eyes",the memorial to band member's former producer and mentor Chris Wimber (son of founding Vineyard pastor, John), taken from life at an all-too-early age. How could one truly listen and engage the promise of the hushed lyric and not believe it: "We're not alone..We're going to live forever" ,and I dare you note to take Pritzl literally when he recommends that "we close our eyes" while soaking up this song. And "Seamonster" (about God casting our sins in the deepest sea, and remembering them no more" ("eating" our sins like a seamonster..what?) that transport me even higher and deeper into Kingdom reality,and can move me to tears and hear-rending intercession and on-my-face worship....Indeed, I am electric and can't be interrupted when these two unfurl, shimmer, build, swirl their way into me in an unhurried and other-worldly vibe, and in the words of bassist Herb Grimaud, Jr, "take you on a journey every time."

And what to do with one of the most discussed songs on the bands website:,"Ilaria." Frankly, I think every song in the VB catalog has an element of God talking to us in the lyrics.(even if it "seems" at first to be about a human relationship or event, or even a throway "plastic" moment) .but here the "I kind of like it when you s way", I think is directed to God. Pritzl has admitted being fascinated with a literal translation of the Hebrew of Genesis 1, were the Spirit is "swaying," "hovering" or "moving" over us. Much of this CD evokkes for me what it may be like to say an move with God, a place we don't often let our hearts take us. And the infectious "robotic dancing" of "Robot Fluide Robot" isa creative synthesis of plastic intsrumentation and elastic lyric... And Sugarlight USA, perhaps another plastic./elastic combo is about addiction, David Bowie's "Major Thom" persona, a critique of American culture , alienation, television and (inevitably) God... all at once.

Fans of the earlier three CDs, and the three later CDs, will find this CD an indispensable crucible, landmark, and launching pad. A band captured on the rebound from an intense, heartbreaking season, full of joy..full of..well, plastic momnets where there is no shame or guilt in reckless abandonment to a (not really)disposable dance number...and glorious, evocative "elastic" pilgrimamges and pilgrimmages . The lyrics..of the elastic pieces, anyway,,are not inmediately accessible (a different animal altogether from some of the more recent worship and pop numbers) and are right-brain impressionistic invitations to explore life, God, ones own bare heart and relationships,..and like good art, will mean different things to different listeners..which of course is an "elastic" quality.

Opening with, and briefly closing with a worshipful pouring out of ones naked longing and vulnerability before God "Lay Your hands now on me..Let Your love cover me".... first accomapanied with ear-splitting punk riffs, and finally with barely audible organ, purposefully frame this whole CD event as authentic, creative , and fresh worship, the like of which is found nowhere else I know.. For who else could weave plastic and elastic, let the twain creatively meet, and couch it in profound worship..even though some may note detect a note of worship until a third or fourth listen! I may be a sucker for ethereal guitars and extended vibe and drone (a genre the later Violets rarely visit) , but to me, when fused with the uncompromisingly honest and pasionate heart of Michael Pritzl and company , I admit with no shame that such has midwifed many a holy moment with God and others in my life. Whether you like droning guitars or not, if you prayerfully let this CD into your life, including those dark soul-recesses, you'll likely find , in the langauge of "Fluide" , "we're all the same"...desperate vagabonds sniffing for , in the lyric of "Elaste", "something strong to fill our hole."

Having said and accoladed all that, in a sense, this disc is almost incomprehensible without the context of its predesssor, the self-titled CD ( a true masterpiece, a word I would not quite apply to "P and E" ( though you noted I began this essay with an easy "classic" rating), because it is only most fully seen and tasted in the light of finding ones way back from near despair, and finding God blesses us with both plastic and elastic foretastes of unspeakable joy..which Michael Pritzl in an apostolic way can begin to articulate and speak for us.

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