Swiss synthpop siren, Verena von Horsten gives us an inspired album filled with fond memories and furious regrets.
Verena von Horsten’s second solo album Alien Angel Super Death was written under the shadow of a great personal tragedy, the suicide of her brother. The record delves deep into the flood of thoughts and emotions dredged up in the wake of such an event. Von Horsten’s reactions are candid and woven into a glorious voltaic tapestry thanks to her keen compositional sensibilities.
A military drum roll opens the album, setting an ominous tone over the album’s playfully daft first track, ‘The Hymn’. Burly synths buzz under lock-step drums. Von Horsten delivers infectious, anthemic lines over delightfully tweaked electronic bells. Her spry, snappy snarls spike your eardrums and set your body moving while her cooing exposition gives the song an emotional centre. ‘The Hymn’ is a brilliantly constructed synthpop piece.
She follows this bombastic inaugural statement with the delicate late night incantation, ‘All About’. Backed by sonorous keys, diffusing like ripples in a pond, von Horsten’s seductive voice tells baleful secrets. Her horn section finds itself somewhere between Bowie’s darker works and Danny Elfman’s town band from The Nightmare Before Christmas. With a great patience, she entrances.
The album’s danceable synthpop core is anchored by ‘Sweet Lullabye’ and the lead single ‘Fire’ both featuring a mix of warm synth progressions and demented bells and whistles. Von Horsten creates a choir with her own voices, layering tracks in the round. ‘What You Say’ introduces eastern influences into her rolling industrial pop bringing to mind genre titans, Juno Reactor. This influence carries over into the sitar loop at the centre of ‘The Love We Have Forever’ which leads the closing trilogy of the album. The last three tracks focus heavily on recovery. ‘A Healing Moment’ is a heartbreakingly beautiful piano piece with angelic reverberations stretching to the heavens. ‘The Believer’ has the protagonist on her feet again. Shaken but resilient. Her final statement is one of strength and wisdom.
Verena von Horsten’s Alien Angel Super Death is emotionally charged, it’s painfully honest. At times crackling with furious energy and others, swelling with fragile grace. During the album’s masterpiece, Sakrament der Büffelherde her voice simmers down to a vulnerable “yew-hoo” that collects so much kinetic energy that it explodes into a cannon of wails. This kind of powerhouse crescendo is the territory of explosive voices like Bjork and PJ Harvey. This album may have come at unimaginable personal strife but the art that has come out of it is truly transcendent.