Band: Violet Cold
Album: Magic Night (2016)
Genre: Experimental, blackgaze
Where to buy: Bandcamp
Violet Cold is not a band, but a one-man project. Emin Guliyev is the tireless Azerbaijani mastermind behind 2016’s Magic Night and more than thirty other releases within the last five years. In addition to playing all the instruments, Guliyev mixes, produces, and masters all his music. And if Magic Night is anything to go by, he’s not just turning on a tap and giving us whatever comes to his head. The album is a concentrated effort to evoke a specific atmosphere, full of intentionality. The arrangements, the instrumentation, the voicings, the mixing, all of it comes together in a relatively seamless production that commands attention: it’s hard to ignore what he’s done here. There are moments on Magic Night that are clear counterpoints to each other, bookending not just individual songs but entire movements across the nearly hour-long running time, in much the same way a symphony builds on themes. It’s an impressive feat for an esnemble and even more so for a single person.
The cover of Magic Night features the moon in its first quarter, rising up from the void. Space is an excellent setting for metal (famously, the 1997 release of 2001: A Space Odyssey saw Stanley Kubrick replace “The Blue Danube” with Metallica’s “Orion” during the space docking scene), and the track titles take their inspiration from this theme. “Magic Night,” “Silver Moon” parts one and two, and “Last Day on Earth” all harken to the dark of space. Because there are no lyrics, Guliyev spells out moods using instrumentation alone. Much of the album is given over to a deep sense of melancholy solitude, accomplished through heavy use of distorted tremolo guitar, sustained synth overtures, and mellifluous piano themes. The keys, in fact, provide the foundation for Magic Night‘s songs, and as the album proceeds you’ll hear the other instruments drop out so the piano can shine.
The album begins with two minutes of a cleanly plucked guitar, to which are added a ghostly soprano chorus and a piano, creating the perfect soundtrack for floating serenely through space, or for sitting quietly and reflecting on past mistakes. Then the guitars and drums and bass kick in with an overwhelming rush of sound. The progression is simple and repetitive, a trait shared by all the songs on Magic Night. The casual listener may even have trouble distinguishing some of the tracks from each other, though the songs hover somewhere between lightly differentiated and purposefully ambient. That said, there are distinct layerings to each song. The opener, “Everything You Can Imagine Is Real,” gives Guliyev a chance to demonstrate his drumming, which slowly adds complications and accents to the driving of the music; the next track, ten-minute-plus “Magic Night,” highlights his restraint as the intense first, third, and fifth movements are interrupted by moderate piano movements. “Warm Winter” continues with a slow piano theme, another simple progression, onto which a synth builds a reflective melody. And so on, throughout the album, each song moves deliberately and effortlessly through its mournful and pensive moods.
One of the most impressive things about Magic Night is Guliyev’s restraint. In addition to lyrics, he eschews instrumental solos that would ordinarily be pro forma in this genre. He does not take solos on guitar, bass, or drums. Instead, he has these instruments go tacit while the piano performs its harmonic work. There are no metal screams here, either, and though there are places you could easily imagine them, he resists their inclusion across the record. All for the better, as his restraint lets the extant musical layers effect the album’s atmospheres. It’s a trick he does well, and the result is an album that works well without feeling either undercooked or overdone.