If its critics are to be believed, post-punk is dead (again) – or so it seems. As British music looks to lampoon a fresh era of flat-footed Tory leadership, the frontline of sullen-faced guitar bands who once reared up against Brexit and nationwide austerity have looked a little tired of late, with such an inundated mass struggling to be heard over its own racket. The next generation of so-called ‘landfill sprechgesang’ have at times felt uninspired, but a few splintered outliers are doing well to reinvigorate its hackneyed clichés.
To be fair, PVA were never cut from quite the same cloth. The South London trio walked a well-trodden path as graduates of the Speedy Wunderground singles club, and later cementing themselves as key players amongst the well-documented Windmill scene, but have since joined a growing trend of indie bands in favour of defecting to a more electronic pulse – see Working Men’s Club’s Fear Fear and Squid signing to Warp. The band’s resulting debut Blush arrives as an album of compromise that strikes balance between machine-made currents and the visceral raw power of an intimate live performance.
If 2020’s Toner EP was a post-punk/techno fusion, Blush’s bed of acid and industrial-sized beats pushes PVA further towards the intersection of a traditional band set-up and the speaker-stacked dancefloor. Everything around the music and emotion that surfaces feels upfront and present, like the songs are unfolding around you rather than through headphones or speakers.
Ella Harris and Josh Baxter get up close and personal with both detailing experiences around the conflict and contradictions that come with being caught between states. Saw-toothed industrial clanger ‘The Individual,’ and propulsive single ‘Hero Man’ relay musings over masculine and feminine egos and how each feeds into identity and the social constructs we build around ourselves. Coming off as liberating as they are anxiety-inducing, each band member’s prickly introspections divulge some of their most vulnerable lyrics to date.
When it’s not glass shattering bass and techno, intimate whispers and expansive synthscapes show off PVA’s versatility on ‘Seven’, which features reinforcements from British-Nigerian electronic artist Tony Njoku. These warmer moments seem to encapsulate, but also deviate beyond Blush’s transitional temperament. Bubble gum pinks still morph into deep ocean blues, but the intensity of the motions of bending, stretching, and collapsing that sparked the energy into tracks like album opener, ‘Untethered’, is dialled down. PVA are writing club music to stay indoors to, keeping things insular without neglecting gleaming disco euphoria.