LP | CD | DL
Released 12th February 2021
Amy Britton looks at the second album from Virgina Wing and finds a blend of pop sensibility with avant garde experimentation.
Things are certainly a little different for Manchester outfit Virginia Wing’s second album than they were for the fresher’s offering, 2018’s Ecstatic Arrow. Where that was recorded in the distinctly aesthetic surroundings of the glistening Swiss Alps, to make Private Life, Virginia Wing have had to of course come into line with the majority of us and work from home. Both lovers of their debut and new listeners will be relieved to know, however, that this sophomore effort proves them to be a band who manage to be bigger than their surroundings no matter what. After all, this is a band who live inside the unwritten manifesto of the avant garde – your art is to be sublimated.
Opener, I’m Holding Out For Something, sets the tone perfectly, a glistening slice of subtle pop which hushes accusations of hiding desires. Slinky and sensual, it weaves into Moon Turns Tides, its very title implying all that is feminine and natural, in line with Merida Richards chanted, hypnotic vocals. The lyrics remain obtuse to be intriguing but hint at some wider allegory on money, power and society, while the synth-pop climbs into bed with flashes of jazz inspired prowess.
As the record progresses, it becomes not only apparent what Virginia Wing have set out to do, but how adept they have been in fulfilling that. They’ve created an immersive and all-encompassing record, but more crucially one that rips up any rule books claiming there needs to be some kind of binary between out and out pop music and underground experimentation. Here, the two don’t just so much flirt with each other as rip each others clothes off, copulate hard and free and then redress each other wearing some of each others items. And it works; it never feels contrived or like one element is at the expense of another. By removing these kinds of barriers Virginia Wing have made an album which feels as “free” for the listener as it no doubt did for its creators.
It’s a mass of contradictions; melody and minimalism combine peacefully with a density to the musical arrangements, such as incendiary drum beats and clatters of repetition. There’s unlimited, joyous optimism, but not at the expense of tackling darker themes. Soft Fruit tackles chaos and uncertainty, Return To View the burden of unaddressed issues, but it’s St. Francis Fountain which hits hardest, with its theme of how coping mechanisms can become traumas of their own. A relatable theme to many, the way its delivered over minimal, lush loops draws the listener in to its room like a confession booth.
By the time closer, I Know About These Things, has been reached, with its mix of futuristic synths and natural world water – inspired soundscapes, the listener has been pulled through a world universal in the things it tackles, but unique in the way it tackles them.
All words by Amy Britton. Find more on her archive.