The instrumental first track on Consent, the debut full-length from Vallens, is much like an opening scene to a thriller film; "While You Wait" is at once unsettling and intriguing, with the tense feeling that something is about to happen.
It's an appropriate way for Toronto musician Robyn Phillips, whose project is named after David Lynch film Blue Velvet's Dorothy Vallens, to begin; much like the darkly surreal cinematic style that's made Lynch a cult icon, Consent is, too, simultaneously ominous and exquisite. And yes, something significant does happen.
Paired with the haunting quality of her voice, Phillips' whirls of moody shoegaze and trembles of psychedelia weave an emotionally unsettling sonic tapestry. The music's mind-bending elements, coaxed out by the production of Psychic TV's Jeff Berner and Josh Korody (Beliefs, Wish), add a profound sonic complement to lyrics about subject matter like addiction, which Phillips confronts on "Karen." The song, named after singer Karen Carpenter, reflects a plummet into chaos through a violent flurry of fuzz.
A feeling of loneliness characterizes "Devour" through pangs of Mazzy Star-like melancholy, which stands in contrast to the joyful, garage-scrubbed symphony of "Tennessee Haze." Dangerous energy drives all the tracks, but perhaps most blatantly on the menacing rumble of "Rosemary" and "Sins So Vain," where Phillips beautifully issues an angular melody over cymbal crashes.
Consent closes on an atmospheric note with "Still Need Dreams," which recalls the tone the album opened with. It leaves the listener dizzied, mulling over the emotional wormhole they've just hurtled through. It's the type of record one should listen to with eyes closed, to fully allow the mind to be swept away on a journey that both delights and disturbs, in the most enchanting of ways. (Hand Drawn Dracula)