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“This Ascension” was among the
fleet of bands in the 4AD mold that emerged in the late 80's. The Santa Barbara
based group first drew attention following their first album “Tears in the Rain”
in 1988. A finely conceived piece, it showed the tentative steps toward the
refinement of the brooding, deeply textured swirly Goth sound that would become
their hallmark. The album fared well despite the rather thin production that so
often plagues self produced initial efforts.
Often compared to perhaps the
Cocteau Twins, or early The Mission, the critics and fans alike managed to see
the jewel beneath the flaws, and This Ascension had a foothold. Yet somehow this
album was largely overlooked due to the barrage of like-minded, similar sounding
bands of that time and the album soon went out of print.
|The band comprised of
Vocalist Dru, Keyboardist Tim Tuttle, bassist Terry Holgate, drummer
Matt Ballesteros, and guitarist Kevin Sierra, arguably the musical heart
of the band. They hoped to fare better with their second effort 1992's
"Light and Shade" produced by "Faith and the Muse"'s William Faith. The
song "Ill Met By Moonlight" and accompanying video took the band to that
level they'd hope to reach. The confidence showed, as Sierra's driving
guitar excursions mapped the peaks and valleys Dru's amazing vocals
would reach; another strong effort to bolster the bands growing
audience, and expand their own musical ambitions.
Guitarist Ashkelon Sain (Blood
Fetish, Trance to the Sun) sharing the guitar chores with Sierra. Bassist
Holgate had departed for the bands second Faith produced album, "Walk Softly, a
Dream Lies Here" in 1994. Faith's sister, Cynthia Coulter providing the bass
lines compensates admirably. "Walk" was yet another outstanding album in the
band's resume. Both the diversity in sound and even instrumentation showed new
potential the band had only begun to explore.
By this point, they had taken
to include twin guitars on some tracks. Again by this point, 'This Ascension'
had shown that Goth did not flounder following the '80's, that it was living and
growing and this band was the proof. Just when it seemed there was nothing short
of international acclaim left to achieve, 'This Ascension' produced what might
be considered among the best Gothic albums of the '90's, 'Sever'. Any number of
superlatives would serve to describe this album, but nothing but listen would do
Sever is more than a
culmination of efforts, it was also the result of the of elementary changes. A
new producer, John Rivers, who had worked with the Love and Rockets and Dead Can
Dance. Also, the band had swelled to a six piece, including extra strings and
percussion. It gave them every resource to fully realize their sound. Building
gradually, it improves on the faster tempo numbers that Sierra had been
increasingly including yet still was filled with Dru's withering soliloquies of
love, loss, and remorse. Like an unwavering ray of shinning purity piercing a
churning black cloud, this would prove to be the pinnacle of their creative
endeavors, and would bring them their largest audience yet.
"Sever' had brought them
to the attention of record label 'Projekt', who signed them at the turn of the
century. They also became personally acquainted with Lady J, who added them to
'Red Blood Radio' about this time. Up until this point, 'This Ascension' had
released their work on their own 'Tess' label.. Managing , as well as attempting
to expand the label's roster proved daunting. Projekt resurrected all of the
bands back catalog, to the joy of many. The early albums, that were now
considered lost treasures to some, were now easily obtainable. Despite all this,
the catalyst that provided this energy may have caused it to self destruct.
After 'Sever's failure to launch them into a mainstream career, it would appears
the members may well have begun perusing other courses. Sadly it appears they
ended not with a bang, but a pop. ccording to the bands website their last
scheduled show was in November, 2004, as an opening act a cafe. If ever there
was a band that could use a well chosen compilation album, it would be (www.thisascension.com)
|Irishman Ronan Harris'
lifelong fascination with electronic music led him to London in the late
eighties. This was a pretty good place to be for most musicians hoping
to make the scene. Yet somehow, Harris' experiments and early recording
using loops and found sounds mixed with a variety themes didn't seem to
catch on. Two limited releases "Body Pulse" and “Strength of Youth" in
1990 were met indifferently, and Harris departed for Toronto. There he
continued to work on material until he was signed to the tiny German
By this time his solo projects
had taken a cohesive shape, and VNV Nation came in to being. "Dervied from the
words "Victory not Vengence" gradually evolving sound owes much to the German
bands of the '70 and '80 as much as it actual German contemporaries such as
Apoptygma Berzerk, Wumpscut or Covenant. Dark Euro Synth-Pop, that might
sometimes be mistaken of the Pet Shop Boys were it not for the lack of the
happy, catchy hooks. Lots of layered repetitive keyboards laid over dance beats
would grow to become VNV's M.O.
||The first offering,
1995's "Advance and Follow" with it's military overtures, covered no new
ground, but garnered enough attention to prompt some live dates. Harris
quickly realized that he could not sufficiently supply the percussion
need for the shows, and enlisted drummer Mark Jackson. However,
Discordia failed to promote VNV any further, and Harris went in search
of greener pastures, landing with another German Label "Off beat" in
1998. This saw the production of a second album the downcast "Praise the
Fallen.” Again in a navy-grey cast, this strong step toward industrial
drew them closer yet to their Deutsch comrades in sound.
1998 also saw the release of
the EP "Solitary" and perhaps most importantly, their first show headlining. Yet
again, stagnation brought about a quick falling out, and Harris quickly signed
with a new label, 'Dependant'. In late 1999, VNV's landmark "Empires" set a
milestone along the Goth/Industrial road. At last, it seemed he had connected
with the audience that had managed to elude him. The quickly recorded "Empires"
showed a marked direction and definition in VNV's sound, with the most confident
music and lyrics to date. Rife with doom, it embraces, even encourages the
apocalypse. It spent two months atop the German alternative charts. Singles
"Dark Angel" and the award winning "Standing" led the assault. Harris was
In 2001, the single "Genesis"
immediately topped independent charts, and managed to reach as high as 67 on the
German pop charts. An interest in their earlier material saw the re-release of
their debut. A full scale tour of both Europe and the U.S. was launched in
support of their upcoming album. Having jumped labels yet again (this time to
Gothic Kingpins Metropolis), the 2 disc compilation "Standing (Burning Empires)"
was released by former label "Dependant".
"Future Perfect" was released
in early 2002 by Metropolis and saw VNV shedding much of their gloom for their
newly derived sub-genre 'futurepop". Gone were many of the dance-beat driven
tunes, replaced by almost ballad-esq melodies and semi-ambient EBM. While not as
strong as 'Empires', the album still made impressions. A second single, the
moving "Beloved' is released, and the band sets about their second U.S. tour in
six months. This would prove to be the last time they would perform live for
three years. The following year, VNV forms their own label, 'Anachon Sounds',
and christen it by releasing the EP 'Honour'. 2004 saw the successful release of
the bands first DVD, chronicling their outstanding live show.
Finally, in 2005 VNV hit
the road again for 60 dates, in support of their album "Matter and Form". While
still in the mood of its predecessors, it showed no lack of enthusiasm, while
covering no new real ground. Still it managed to reach #32 on Billboards
independent chart. Harris has since participated with Front 242 member in a side
project, 'Code23'. To this point in time, (www.vnvnation.com
VNV Nation shows no signs of slowing down. Harris has proved himself a grand
master of electronic composition, and not a bad lyrist/vocalist either. He has
continually mount new horizons while never loosing sight of the essential base
the spawned the electronic music realm.
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