Verena von Horsten is a Swiss multi-instrumentalist with a synth-rock style that takes influence from the likes of PJ Harvey, Bjork and Portishead. Having previously released one album and having played gigged extensively including tours of Switzerland and Germany as well as appearances in New York and Montreux Jazz Festival, her newest effort “Alien Angel Super Death” was heavily influenced by the suicide of her brother and the way society deals with these issues. The album was released on January 13th on A Tree in a Field Records.
The opening track is entitled “The Hymn”, kicking off with a drum roll which leads into a powerful synth line. Von Horsten’s powerful vocals have no problem cutting through the mix with an air of confidence and something much darker.
“All About” is a much softer number, although it has a hint of an industrial feel with thumping erratic drum patterns. For the most part, the vocals are reduced to a mere whisper, giving a really good sense of dynamics. The main instrumental hook is repeated throughout most of the song but the melody is expanded on as the song progresses which helps keep it from growing stale.
The fourth tune, “Sakrament Der Buffelherde” is probably the heavier songs this album has to offer, kicking off with what sounds like an air raid siren. The verses are pushed along by a driving bass line and the explosive chorus is supported by not only van Horsten’s killer lead vocals but also some great backing singing that really helps round out the sound. The PJ Harvey influence is really apparent on this one, especially in the outro.
“The Monster” is the halfway point of the album, bringing the energy down. The warbly organ is pretty much the only instrumentation on this track, putting a lot of focus on the singing and lyrical content, which is centred around dealing with personal problems which lie within. One thing that definitely stands out here are the incredibly eerie vocal harmonies that weave in and out intermittently.
The track “What You Say” stands out as one of the groovier tunes with a breakbeat and some eastern sounding instrumentation, the result being something that sounds a bit like St. Vincent with a bit more heft and experimentation.
The final track, “The Believer” has a similar groove to it, making for a nice sense of variety on the album while still maintaining some consistency. It’s a good song, but I’m not sure whether or not it’s a strong enough number to finish the album on when there are a lot of tunes here that would have done a better job.
Von Horsten has done a really good job at developing a sound and sticking to it, making for a really consistent album that manages to borrow from other artists while still sounding original, although it feels like she just scratched the surface of this sound, so it will be interesting to see how it develops with time.