Loden: Valeen Hope
Eat This Records/Plexiphonic

What makes Loden's Valeen Hope so enjoyable? Is it the nostalgic charm of Jolan Koks' old-school, analogue-heavy sound palette? The energy and passion the 23-year-old Hilversum, Netherlands student brings to the melodic electronica genre? Its succinct 43-minute running time? All of the above and more, naturally. Created between Brussels and Amsterdam, Valeen Hope mixes guitar-heavy anthems with melodic electronica. Though a Boards Of Canada influence is discernible at times (“Tears for the Thirsty” reveals that influence most conspicuously, though Loden offsets it with hip-hop beats), Koks more typically eschews bucolic placidity for aggression. “Our Exploding Lives” instantiates the point by opening in hazy BOC style before exploding into a bulldozing shoegaze howl. The style similarly emerges in “A Star on Your Shoulder,” which pairs stately piano melodies with buzzing 4/4 pulses, in the dreamy title song's blurry arsenal of electric guitars and drums, and in “Sugar Tea” with its frenetic electro-guitar attack of skittering squelchy beats; Giovanni Oduber's guitar even pushes “So This is Reality” into a post-rock zone normally inhabited by Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Though Koks wisely includes calmer moments to balance the uptempo material (the exotic meditation “Komop” and the pretty lullaby coda “KNKK”), Valeen Hope impresses most of all when bright synth melodies escalate heavenly in the towering “Vlugt (and More for You).”

August 2005