VNV Nation – Noire

A spiritual synth pop journey

VNV Nation - Noire

Album facts

Release: October 12th, 2018
Label: Self-released
Genre: , , , ,
Discogs: Link

Five years after the release of 'Transnational', VNV Nation are back with their 10th stu­dio album 'Noire'.

Combining future and synth pop ele­ments with retro 80’s style and instru­ment­al exper­i­ments, the album offers a good mix­ture for pas­sion­ate dan­cers and con­tem­plat­ive listen­ers alike.

Ronan Harris’ mel­an­chol­ic and calm voice leads the listen­er through very dark places, where oppos­ing forces such as light and dark­ness, peace and war, life and death, love and hate are inter­twined in an etern­al con­flict. The reli­gious implic­a­tions in the lyr­ics add to this somber atmo­sphere and make listen­ing to the 13 songs an almost tran­scend­ent­al exper­i­ence.

In church with VNV Nation

The first song 'A Million' starts with a calm and soft melody and just when you are temp­ted to think that this is a typ­ic­al, min­im­al­ist­ic intro song, the song sur­pris­ingly quick­ens its pace and trans­forms into a dynam­ic up-tempo open­er. The fast, insist­ing club beats per­fectly accom­pany the lyr­ics, depict­ing an apo­ca­lyptic scenery of viol­ence and war which occur as soon as the “dying sun pres­ages the night”.

The 80’s synth pop melody of 'Armour' feels like a wel­com­ing dis­trac­tion after the dis­turb­ing and viol­ent images of the first song. This song is much more optim­ist­ic and reminds you that there will always be someone or some­thing pro­tect­ing us from the world’s hazards.

The hope­ful­ness evoked in the last song abruptly fades away while listen­ing to the lyr­ics of 'God of All'. The song describes the life-long search of (a) God, who does either not exist or just decides to leave you alone while the world is col­lapsing around you. Just like the first song, 'God of All' seems to tackle the large themes of our times, such as end­less war­mon­ger­ing and the lack of com­pas­sion and love.

And for a moment I thought I heard you whis­per, mis­taken for the wind across the stone
Lyrics from 'God Of All' by VNV Nation

'Lost in space and time'

The 'Nocturne No. 7' indeed comes as a sur­prise, as I would nev­er have expec­ted a clas­sic piano song on a VNV Nation album. The blank, nat­ur­al piano chords without any syn­thes­izer beats stand in con­trast to everything we heard before. They actu­ally force you to hold on for a moment and listen care­fully as they slowly seem to fade away and then come back softly but decisively.

This con­tem­plat­ive ambi­ance is developed fur­ther in 'Collide'. This song actu­ally reminded me of 'Endless Skies' at first. While the first half of the song makes you feel as if you were flow­ing in space, the rhythm in the second half becomes more emphat­ic and insist­ent and leaves you pon­der­ing on the mean­ing of the words.

We are too young, too inno­cent to see, what's right before our eyes
Lyrics from 'Collide' by VNV Nation

With its reg­u­lar synth pop rhythm, 'Wonders' is yet anoth­er typ­ic­al VNV Nation song, but in terms of lyr­ics it has become one of my favor­ites on this album. This song is an ode to memor­ies, be they good or bad. It also reminds us that we can nev­er go back in time and should savor every moment we have because it will nev­er come back.

Echoes of the chances I had to take
I closed the door, I nev­er said goodbye
No regrets, no tears. We can­not turn back time
Lyrics from 'Wonders' by VNV Nation

Danse macabre

VNV Nation press photo
VNV Nation – Press photo

'Immersed' abruptly takes us back to the themes of the begin­ning of the album and immerses us in the ever-last­ing fight between Good and Bad. This song is def­in­itely one of the songs on the album I would love to dance to. I can already ima­gine people run­ning to the dance floor and get­ting car­ried away by the force­ful beats.

Although 'Lights Go Out' does not take up the same dark beats, its mes­sage is not less grim. Just like the alarms evoked in the lyr­ics, call­ing every­one to seek shel­ter for the night, the song starts off with the exact same sound and intro­duces a mor­bid scenery: While war is raging out­side, people are try­ing to for­get what is hap­pen­ing out­side of the base­ment they are trapped in for the night, laugh­ing and dan­cing, “wait­ing for the all-clear”.

Come join the party at Club Vertigo
Lyrics from 'Lights Go Out' by VNV Nation

'Guiding', the second instru­ment­al song of the album, sud­denly drags you out of the scenery depic­ted in the last song. Slowly build­ing up ten­sion, this inter­lude announces the break­ing of a new dawn, as if the sun was rising after last night’s hor­rors.

Rise and fall

The next song does not only invoke a night’s stroll of a “stranger in a strange land”. 'When Is The Future' also describes our nev­er-end­ing search for answers while time seems to run by too fast. With its reg­u­lar beats and future pop ele­ments, I couldn’t help but ima­gin­ing myself walk­ing to the song’s rhythm through a met­ro­pol­is as a stranger, just like Ronan Harris on his stroll through Tokyo.

Fighting with a present
Racing from the past
We're search­ing for something
That can nev­er satisfy
Lyrics from 'When Is The Future' by VNV Nation

'Only Satellites' takes on a faster beat again. Its optim­ist­ic wave and future pop sounds awake you from the last song’s rev­er­ie and I couldn’t help but hum­ming the song’s refrain again and again because it just wouldn’t leave my head. Although this song is not extraordin­ary, I can already ima­gine a con­cert by VNV Nation where the audi­ence will be singing along.

After this cheer­ful flight into the heav­ens, we are, again, bru­tally torn out of the pre­vi­ous song’s mood by the album’s third instru­ment­al song. 'Requiem For Wires' seems to be a memento for everything that has been lost in the past and shall nev­er return. It is yet anoth­er inter­lude which, in this case, pre­pares us for the ending.

'All Our Sins' takes up the same theme from the begin­ning, both in terms of lyr­ics and pace. The lyr­ics invoke dra­mat­ic images of the Last Judgment where all sins are either pun­ished or for­giv­en, announced by fan­fares who seem to rep­res­ent the open­ing of the gates of Heaven or Hell.

For real fans

'Noire' might not be an out­stand­ing album, but for all those who love the typ­ic­al VNV Nation style, this is a good, sol­id record. Personally, 3 instru­ment­al songs out of 13 are two too much for my taste, I think there might have been more poten­tial for at least one oth­er vocal song. Still, I would recom­mend the album to every­one who loves to dwell on the both cryptic and mean­ing­ful lyr­ics and be enchanted by Ronan Harris’ ever so sad voice.

Track By Track Rating

VNV Nation - Noire
VNV Nation – Noire
A Million
Armour
God Of All
Nocturne No. 7 
Collide
Wonders
Immersed
Lights Go Out
Guiding
When Is The Future
Only Satellites
Requiem For Wires
All Our Sins
Recommend
A Million
Wonders
Immersed
Weak
Guiding
Requiem For Wires
3
Spiritual

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  1. This seems to be an intro­spect­ive work which causes its uneven pace. It isn't album/theme dir­ec­ted; rather, it's a (some­what) ran­dom col­lec­tion of Harris' thoughts and love for synths. I think Transnational songs and the pre­vi­ous had become too much of a "let there always be nev­er end­ing light" theme and the dude just needed to get real with him­self. And I love it.

    1. I actu­ally had the same feel­ing while listen­ing to the album. I wasn't really able to make out a spe­cif­ic "main theme" lead­ing us through the whole album because every single song presents us with its own theme and feel­ings that come along with it, which cre­ates this uneven pace you were talk­ing about.

  2. 3.5
    Anachronistic and Impulsive

    This new offer­ing by my favor­ite group (re: Ronan Harris) is a bit uneven and rather exper­i­ment­al in spots – at times 80's club pop and at oth­ers pens­ive piano con­certo (hence my nod to the fam­ous line from Legion). To some degree, that is to be expec­ted. That's who Ronan Harris is. He wants to push and grow with each track and each album. I believe he has. And yet, the moment I heard the track 'God of All' from the latest Communion After Dark pod­cast, I was hooked, because it is abso­lutely the VNV Nation sound of 'Automatic' – per­haps their best album, in my opin­ion. I have bought everything this band has put out and always found the won­der­ful, soul­ful, hope­ful, and poet­ic words accom­pan­ied by driv­ing, pulsat­ing beats I need. I can't wait to see what Ronan comes up with next. 

    Breakdown
    Leave A Review
    A Million
    Armour
    God Of All
    Nocturne No. 7 
    Collide
    Wonders
    Immersed
    Lights Go Out
    Guiding
    When Is The Future
    Only Satellites
    Requiem For Wires
    All Our Sins
    0
    0
    1. I believe the term "ana­chron­ist­ic" per­fectly describes the new record! "Noire" also reminded me a lot of the pre­vi­ous album but you can still feel that there is some­thing new to it.

  3. 3.3
    Better than the pre­de­cessor 'Transnational'

    The score doesn't play in the first league and will not be part of the best albums of the year. Still, this album is isn't only recom­mend to die-hard fans, because I also enjoy listen­ing to it. The most tracks are great and worth to give a listen­ing. Without the instru­ment­als, my over­all score would be 3.8 stars! 

    Breakdown
    Leave A Review
    A Million
    Armour
    God Of All
    Nocturne No. 7 
    Collide
    Wonders
    Immersed
    Lights Go Out
    Guiding
    When Is The Future
    Only Satellites
    Requiem For Wires
    All Our Sins
    0
    0

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A Million
Armour
God Of All
Nocturne No. 7
Collide
Wonders
Immersed
Lights Go Out
Guiding
When Is The Future
Only Satellites
Requiem For Wires
All Our Sins
Final Score