If 2020’s ‘Toner EP’ piqued people’s attention with its industrial infused post-punk, PVA’s debut album ‘BLUSH’ is going to be like a headlock. The South-London trio (Ella Harris and Josh Baxter, both on vocals, synths, guitars and production, and drummer/percussionist Louis Satchell) set out to broaden their sonic horizons with a sound that journeyed beyond their pulsating live shows. Satchell has commented on the record’s inception and its overarching themes “we wanted to surprise people and do something more than just get across how we sound at a gig.
It’s quite an anxious record sometimes that is relating to mental health issues but also an everyday anxiety of making the album. It’s been a rocky ride but we always pick ourselves up.” ‘BLUSH’ inhabits an environment born from pulsing electronics, in-yer-face drums and deadpan vocals. It somehow manages to convey a personality of austere coldness but also a kinetic, organic energy that by definition projects a mechanical warmth. It’s a record hinged on dichotomy and it’s this disparate fuel that powers the three-piece’s primary outing.
The majority of ‘BLUSH’ plonks the listener into the beating digital heart of a cyber soundscape, with record opener ‘Untethered’ setting the tone for what will be played out across the next 11 tracks. A buoyant beat provides a sturdy backbone as constant synth burbles undulate around Harris’ unwavering vocal style. There’s a steadfast cool to the co-vocalist’s delivery which helps emphasise the sonic devilishness that swirls around her. Following track ‘Kim’ ratchets up the harshness and deploys a staccato rhythm as Harris searches for an escape from something or someone “take me away from all this.” ‘Hero Man’s machine like tempo is accentuated by the way Harris blurts out “can’t eat/can’t sleep/can’t go to work/I can’t leave” repeatedly, while funky percussion and piercing electronics amplify the track’s perpetual motion. Gears are switched to a slow drawl when Baxter takes over vocal duties on ‘Bunker’, a song that slithers along at a meandering gait.
Baxter’s husky tones deploy a sense of menace when combined with circuit board-tinkering and digital scaling. This is typified by the anxiety-ridden “try to run/try to hide/now I’m shaking from the inside.” The same kind of unease permeates ‘Comfort Eating’s disjointed awkwardness. With Harris taking the mic back she conveys a sense of dread and discomfort via “see/what’s this hate that’s eating me alive/and all this anger it swells from inside/I’m overeating/I’m feeding feelings.”
A side from the record’s penchant for being abrasive, ‘The Individual’, fronted by Baxter is another fine example of PVA’s cyberpunk proclivity, there are pockets of icy cool introspection to be unearthed. The Harris-helmed ‘Transit’ is an icy traversal through vulnerability and rejection, which eventually transforms from cold, esoteric drama to a digital bludgeoning. During the song’s calmer beginnings Harris can be heard pleading “don’t leave me again/you always leave me again.” Despite the record’s anxiety it concludes on a loving note with Harris declaring “I find great comfort looking at the sky knowing it’s the same sky you see” during ‘Soap’ as the record comes to an elegant synth and orchestral-lead stop.
Despite the record’s “rocky road” ‘BLUSH’ is a sonic and emotional triumph. Resistance is futile, embrace that chokehold, PVA is are something special.
Pre-order Blush by PVA HERE
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