Always eager to discover new work in the realm of post-punk, I was excited to come across a promising new act. Coming out of the alternative underground of San Francisco, the debut release by Vaniish, Memory Work, delivers a personally beloved form of shadowy post-punk. This trio has long been creating music within the genre, as its members are current/former musicians from other dark projects such as Soft Moon and Wax Idols. The four-piece act clearly establishes themselves as veterans of the genre with the precision in which their debut is executed. Memory Work takes the listener into an introspective place with dreamlike synthesizers and atmospheric guitar riffs. Their music is akin to the pioneering post-punk acts of the 1980s–such as The Chameleons–and creates a gentle melancholy that persists throughout the entire album.
Memory Work begins with “In Images”, an introductory gateway into the mystique of Vaniish’s music that immediately develops a sound that places them apart from the genre’s more modern status quo. From there, Memory Work goes on to capture a dreamy atmosphere reminiscent of the early work from The Cure. Following the intro, the title track “Memory Work” displays the influence of synth pop, though it doesn’t release the listener from its dark terrain. It is aggressively supernatural in its delivery of entrancing vocals, and presents itself in an unearthly enigma.
The more vicious tracks “Fragment/Fatigued” and “Search and Replace” feature ominous drone synthesizers that could be the soundtrack to a futuristic Ballardian dystopia. Noisy riffs and chords creepily ascend to the forefront of the mix and are accompanied by a medley of eerie synth work. This theme continues in the following tracks, but morphs into different forms. “Succession” is one of the more gentle tracks, with spacey electronics and a slower pace, yet the unease still persists. Whatever ease “Succession” allowed is abruptly ended with “Observatory Time”, where the project immediately plunges the listener back into a sinister, disorienting dominion.
Vaniish allows the listener a reprieve from the chaos with the divergence that accompanies “La foi au fil de l’eau”. The final track of the album brings to mind the meditative, shoegazing, and otherworldly vocals of the Cocteau Twins. Its lighter nature stands in contrast to the persistently foreboding landscape of the album, producing a tender end to an otherwise unsettling and menacing excursion.
Whether hearing Memory Work outdoors on a starless night or while dancing in a foggy, dimly lit nightclub, the listener will undoubtedly be put into a unique headspace. Infusing post-punk, dream pop, and shoegaze, Vaniish creates a darkly wonderful album. Bleak and introspective, the ethereal journey of Memory Work leaves me eager for future releases.
01) In Images (Intro)
02) Memory Work
05) Search and Replace
08) Observatory Time
09) Loss of Sensation
10) Cold Fascination
11) La foi au Fil de l’eau