Maria Violenza – yep, “Maria Violence” for all of you who are into thinly veiled conspiracies, in case you wondered whether or not the name was punk enough or something – was born in Sicily, and makes great use of the wildly disparate cultural influences that have drifted through the Mediterranean at one time or another, including, according to her press release, “Sicel, Sicanian, Phonenician, Greek, Punic, Roman, Vandalic, Gothic, Byzantine, Arabic, Jewish, Norman, Lombardic, Spanish, Albanian and North-African.” That’s a heady stew, filled with a variety of flavors! Try to pick each one out, I dare you. You could turn it into a drinking game, maybe.
Violenza’s been around and has done other things, but this is her first release for Russian label Drobmag (and it’s actually on Drobmag’s inaugural release spate set for December 1). It’s not her first solo release either, although I’m only finding her name on half a split with the inimitable Gianni Giublena Rosacroce (released with assistance from No=Fi, those magnificent bastards!). Sort of makes sense that connection – there’s a real kindred spirit she clearly has with No=Fi label head Toni Cutrone’s synth punk duo Trouble Vs. Glue (who we love, by the way). Did I just slip and reveal what Maria Violenza EP sounds like? It’s, uh, synth punk. Stream one of these things in here, you won’t argue with me.
So that means there’s a metallic sheen over the EP, a cold distance that’s reinforced by the programmed beats and harsh synthesizer and keyboard sounds. Combine that with the diverse ethnicity mentioned above and you get a pretty remarkable statement. Instead of relying specifically on darkwave forebears from England or New York, the scales and chords inject a decidedly foreign flavor that sets Violenza apart from your run-of-the-mill ex-goths. She even refers to her music as “dark arabesque synth punk,” and this is as close to actuality as you’ll get without pressing play – you know how this sounds in your head, don’t you? “Amaneh” has a wild gypsy vibe, sort of like French band Louise Attaque with synthesizers and programmed drums. “Je Pete Ton Plan” recalls Cibo Matto at their best call-and-response (think “Birthday Cake”) with ominous synths (again, “arabesque”!) and shouted vocals.
Other tunes are equally outstanding, including the slinky “Moississure” and the dark and low-lit “Sbirri,” yet we’re still playing the always-enjoyable “Spot the Mediterranean Influence” on the styles. Perhaps the clearest we get to a mission statement is “Arabian Punk” – certainly the title of the song kind of points in that direction, but without an English lyric sheet, I can only guess. Still, there’s no wavering here as a martial one-two punk beat tins away under Violenza’s seething lyrics, and an obviously Middle Eastern-derived progression blasts organlike through the keys. It’s a pummeling reminder that punk music and attitude can come in an infinite array of shapes and flavors, and Maria Violenza, along with her contemporaries at No=Fi, Drobmag, and elsewhere, are shining examples.
RIYL: Trouble Vs. Glue, Cibo Matto, Boss Hog, Louise Attaque, Suicide