Toner EP by PVA album review by Adam Williams for Northern Transmissions

Big Dada

8.5

PVA

Toner EP

There must be something in the water in South London; its long been a fertile breeding ground for young and exciting acts and it doesn’t look like drying up anytime soon. Joining the likes of black midi, Glows, Shame and Goat Girl, are post-punk/techno polymaths PVA. A trio that blur the lines between hedonistic club culture and what it is to be a band playing guitars, drums and synths. Having caught the attention of many via their first single ‘Divine Intervention’, the three piece made up by Ella Harris (vocals, guitar, synth), Josh Baxter (vocals, guitar, synth) and Louis Satchell (vocals, drums, sampler) have readied their debut EP ‘Toner’, which acts an enticing window into their ever-evolving sonic wonderland.

‘Toner’ is a rich document of musical experimentation; the EP took form in the group’s rehearsal space where they would work on the tracks in a live setting “until it felt good”, meaning each song would be built up, ripped apart and reshaped, encapsulating the true essence of the collective. Sonically the three tracks (‘Toner’ contains three original songs and three remixes) merge pulsing electronica, with new wave and post punk, while thematically, as Harris puts it “Toner’ is an EP about how we change. Reflecting on times integral to our identities; being created, torn down and rebuilt. ’Toner’ explores how closure and knowledge from past experiences and relationships shape us to move forward. Within this are feelings of being trapped in our bodies and finding freedom to let go.”

‘Talks’ drops the curtain on ‘Toner’ via a digital pulse and a lithe post-punk wiggle that sashays with a funky sass. Rooted in dance culture, the song fidgets and writhes under a repetitive groove that’s lashed to a multitude of percussion nuances and ever changing electronic undertones. The icy, nonchalant vocal interplay between Harris and Baxter just oozes cool, as they echo the likes of “I’ve been stuck trying to play this game/I roll the dice to see you again”. Narratively, Baxter states that “Talks’ is about how we invent games in order to avoid expressing our true feelings or take the risk of being hurt”, which is typified by the simple coda of “you don’t wanna talk”. If ‘Talks’ is the amalgamation of dance music and post-punk, ‘Sleek Form’ is where techno takes centre stage. Drum machines throb, while synths bubble with an endless effervescence, conjuring up vibes of underground Berlin techno clubs, tinged with a whiff of sexual desire. There’s a darkness at the heart of the track as it swells in an ever-expanding crescendo with lustful intensity. Harris remarks that “Sleek Form’ explores the ideas of given and chosen identity and finding new takes on life from acceptance and joy in a new version of yourself”. The final track (before the remixes) ‘Exhaust/Surroundings’ is a Jekyll and Hyde melange of icy synths, fluid, yet jerky new-waves rhythms that take on a darker guise before the song switches from detached to abrasive and confrontational. In its final moments there’s a call and response that finds cyborg noises pirouetting around evangelical expansions of sound. Explaining more about ‘Exhaust/Surroundings’ Harris states the song “is about the illusions we hold and how we project onto people ideas of how things should be”.

To accompany the band recordings of ‘Toner’, ‘Talks’ and ‘Exhaust/Surroundings’ receive a reworking from Mura Musa, Lynx and Daniel Fox from Dublin noiseniks Girl Band. ‘Sleek Form’ doesn’t receive a remix, understandably given it sounds like a throbbing club banger already. The Mura Musa take on ‘Talks’ transforms the original into a thumping dance track, with the coda “the best is yet to come” utilised as the song’s main hook. The post-punk flourishes are there still but it’s the electronica element that’s brought to the fore. Lynx’s version of ‘Talks’ manoeuvres proceedings into a murky, woozy dance remix arena, while ‘Exhaust/Surroundings’ under the control of Daniel Fox strips away the new-wave element in favour of an intense beast that only has the taste for abrasive techno.

To quote PVA “the best is yet to come”, with PVA as a benchmark, their next release has a lot to live up to. Don’t bet against it being something extraordinary.