A spiritual synth pop journey

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

‘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
3.04
Spiritual

Order VNV Nation – Noire now:

5 Responses

  1. mark

    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.

    Reply
    • mm
      Annika Autzen

      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.

      Reply
  2. court bennett
    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
    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
    Reply
    • mm
      Annika Autzen

      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.

      Reply
  3. mm
    Thomas Frenken
    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
    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
    Reply

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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