The band Viernes is the Florida-based duo of Sean Moore and Alberto Hernandez. They’re two friends with musical inclinations who decided to get together every Friday and mess around with various sounds and sonic textures to see what they could create. Those weekly sessions, combined with a knowledge of rudimentary Spanish, should tell you exactly how they chose the name Viernes. As for the sound that emerged from those experiments, well, they make up the tracks you’ll find on their debut album “Sinister Devices”, which came out last week. Also a case of what’s-in-a-name, the album title, along with its white smoke with undertones of red cover should give you a relatively accurate idea of what mood you’ll come out of these recordings with.
As the glo-fi subgenre continues to make waves among hype peddlers most everywhere, the consistent movement towards electronica has inspired plenty of other types of music to incorporate computer-generated beats and sounds into their repertoire. One of the newer and fresher products to emerge from this of late is a movement being called electrogaze, or dreamhop. The basic idea is to use the dark, washed out guitars of shoegaze and combine them with dreamy electronic landscapes. As a natural cousin to all this, psychedelia also plays an important role in the sound, and if you like to listen to music while on “enhanced substances”, you might find electrogaze very much to your liking. But that most basically defines what Viernes is all about on “Sinister Devices”, crafting shimmering and ethereal melodies often mixed with vocal harmonies that have earned them comparisons to bands like Liars, The Radio Dept., Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective. The wealth of instruments they use across the album is impressive as well, because for all the odd electronic squelches and heavy My Bloody Valentine-esque guitars, the splashes of piano, xylophones, horns and a host of other musical devices are what turn these very good melodies into amazing ones. That, along with the way each track unfurls in an entirely unpredictable and challenging way is further testament to just how smart these guys really are as musicians. There may not be any hooks to officially speak of, given the album’s complete shunning of the traditional verse-chorus-verse structure, but a song like “Sinister Love”, where the same phrase gets repeated over and over again can be equally as compelling and memorable. You also get a couple flat-out instrumental tracks on the record, which serve less as stopgaps between singing and more as continuations of the hazy beauty established by those glorious harmonies. Put together in its entirety, “Sinister Devices” provides one album-length journey into lands of darkness and dreams. Wonderful only begins to describe it.
Some might see “Sinister Devices” as an unfocused and formless piece of wallpaper. The complaint is understandable, but those who argue it are either missing the point or tend to have a tough time with songs that lack obvious choruses. Each song works as a solid piece of music unto itself, but the real experience here is listening to the album front to back in one sitting. There are layers and hidden pieces that reveal themselves through time and patience, which is largely why the repeat value on this record is so high. From a purely lyrical perspective, most of the songs will feature a few words or phrases repeated throughout, so in some respects that lacks depth, but like Sleigh Bells does, the words don’t matter so much as the way they’re presented. Viernes says that their songs are about many things such as fear and tragedy or love and money. The lyrics don’t so much drive that point home, but the dreamy soundscapes do. And that’s the point – to let the instruments do the talking for you. It may not be the brightest and most upbeat album in the world, and it can certainly be challenging at times, but “Sinister Devices” more than earns its keep through dynamic and darkly beautiful compositions. Given the lack of press surrounding this album so far, it may be destined to become one of this year’s hidden gems. Don’t let it pass you by without at least stopping for a taste.