Review Summary: A Good Band! A Good Band!
Valina has been making music for over 12 years, played over 300 shows in the US and Europe, and have released three full length albums. After stating these facts, I can’t help but ask the question, why isn’t band more popular?! This Austrian Trio composes self-described, “Nondanceable rockmusic with the calm attitude of a finnish lemon-farmer couple,” and that is a better description than I could ever come up with (well, maybe). Taking that first part, the only people dancing to Valina’s music will be the ones in sheer awe of their technical proficiency, or those too drunk to even remember the band’s name. As for the second part, Finnish lemon farmers are crazier than I thought if this is what the band calls “calm.” Spurts of Battles and Don Caballero can be heard often during A Tempo! A Tempo!
, but far less flashy and overly technical. At certain points one might have to double check their player to see if it is still Valina playing and not Fugazi or Unwound. Comparisons to each of these bands are warranted, but not exorbitant. Valina takes calls from post-punk, math-rock and indie but mashes them all together and turns the dial up to 11. Before I proceed to explain why Valina is so great or not so great, let me get this out of the way, A Tempo! A Tempo!
is produced by Steve Albini.
The band kicks things off with ‘Calendria (An Introduction),’ and what an introduction it is. Right up front is Anselm Durrschmid’s powerful and speedy drumming, staying the main focus of many of the songs on the album. Anselm provides a strong rhythmic backbone to each of the songs while also leading his bandmates. Guitarist Anatol Bogendorfer will follow the drums, sometimes playing rhythmically to give the songs a punk feel. When Anatol is going for melody, he does it beautifully, twisting and turning a single melody around the song with ease. Bassist Florian Husbert Huber locks in with the drums and sticks to simple heavy lines throughout the album. This is both an advantage and disadvantage. The bass will never induce any “wow!” moments, but it does a great job of keeping the band tight. The huge kicker with Valina is that they use vocals. Guitarist Anatol helms the mic, singing out in a very European voice his fun lyrics. The vocals will be a love or hate thing for many listeners. Some will wish for Anatol to have never picked up the mic for taking away from such amazing music, while others will love how he can bend his voice around such technical music in such a happy sing-song way. People from either camp will be pleased to know that the vocals are usually not the main focus of the songs, and are relatively low in the mix. The closer ‘Libido’s Regime’ is a perfect example of how the band combines the indie style vocals with their brand of music. The song uses slow points to accentuate the vocals as it bursts into a loud explosion to show off the band’s instrumental skill. There is something for everyone here. Songs like ‘Idiom’s Palace’, ‘Eye’s a Window’ and ‘Per Sonare’ are straight post-punk goodness, while ‘Dogged’, Phantom of the Longest Day’ and ‘Delivery Man (Duane! Duane!)’ switch time signatures and stop-start just like any math rock tune would.
Valina’s A Tempo! A Tempo!
is a wonderful piece of music. Seemlessly combining all of their favorite influences in a tight knit package that is easily enjoyable and accessible. The biggest hurdle to overcome is the vocals, which are rarely seen coupled with this type of music. Valina has put forth an excellent effort that is both unique and fun, and that is all someone could really ask for.