Such things can’t last forever
From the opening moments of this album with the tumbling percussive tones of ‘Bodies Are Dumb’, it’s clear that 3-piece outfit A Void are keen to present a raw guitar-driven sound topped out with plenty of attitude.
There’s certainly an air of discontent at work on Awkward And Devastated with its qualities of frustration and disaffected youth. It’s a mood that’s reinforced by the unvarnished production with little in the way of polished melodies, plus plenty of sharp corners for the listener to snag themselves on.
Consisting of Camille Alexander (guitar, vocals), Marie Niemiec (drums) and Aaron Hartmann (bass), A Void came together originally when Alexander and Niemiec met at a Paris music school. Although the group was a 3-piece outfit during their Paris period, Alexander and Niemiec eventually parted ways with their original bassist and came over to London. Existing as a 2-piece band to kick off with, they later recruited Hartmann on bass duties.
Musically, A Void cite the likes of Sonic Youth, Hole and Babes In Toyland as influences. There’s certainly an element of grunge In the DNA of the band, epitomised by the fuzzy guitars and stark percussion. Camille Alexander presents an attitude and energy that seasoned musicians twice her age would struggle to achieve. The lyrics don’t offer up much in a sense of compromise with Alexander spitting out some lines with a power that’s often striking, but also with a sense that it’s personal as hell.
The likes of ‘She Threw Her Baby From The 7th Floor’ are all snarling guitars and clipped vocals. Its tight melodies and energetic delivery offer up nihilistic musings (“I never asked to belong to this world/That will disintegrate”) and, of course, the disturbing imagery of the song’s title.
Meanwhile, the likes of Éclatée’ (from whose lyrics the album’s title is derived) seems to be built around a particular venom that’s cast out in a cathartic thrash-out. Equally, ‘Complainte’ offer up a garage punk aesthetic in which Alexander is literally screaming lines like “Teach me how to live”.
‘No Rest’ is a little disconcerting with its more easy going rhythms. Contrasted with the rest of the album, it’s a more reflective piece with lyrics devoted to to thoughts of insecurity and inaction (“I’ve lost my drive again”).
The melancholic tones of ‘Glum City’ deliver tightly coiled guitar-driven moments, through which Alexander works out themes of isolation and individuality (“I won’t change my flaws/For someone who doesn’t care”).
Things step up a gear on the sharper ‘Vanity’ and its spiky guitars. Elsewhere, ‘A Rose’ offers up a faded slice of Americana in its languid rhythms and simple percussion.
There’s more of a slow burn intensity on ‘Canker’ which is shored up by deprecating lyrics (“You think you’re doing great/You’re a fucking disaster”).
The album closes out with the off-kilter rhythms of ‘Ungrateful’, an exploration of the ashes of a relationship with acid lyrics (“Smother the fire we have grown”). For anyone who’s suffered the slings and arrows of a relationship, there’s plenty to empathise with here.
For those that have a soft spot for that 1990s era of raw guitars and a stark, unreconstructed sound, A Void are likely to find a welcome home.
There’s a vitality to their compositions that’s often missing from the contemporary rock scene. In a live environment, these tunes take on a more dynamic presence, often helped by Alexander’s idiosyncratic stage performance (she prowls the audience and often sprawls herself over Niemiec’s drum kit mid-song). But Awkward And Devastated captures that energy in a way that still works in a recorded format — and unleashing it in the comfort of your own home brings its own catharsis.
He is responsible for design outfit Arc23 as well as writing for outlets such as J-Pop Go, Electronic Sound, All The Anime, Manga Entertainment and The Electricity Club.
He has been featured in a variety of press and media features including the Metro and Japan Update Weekly.