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I Am a Stranger in This Place: An Experiment in Vibe
Artist: The Violet Burning 
Label: Sovereign Productions

After the high, dizzying plastics and low, heart-rending elastics of their last record, The Violet Burning has decided to settle down in "an experiment in vibe" for I Am a Stranger in This Place, a combination greatest hits, live, and praise and worship. The albumís cover makes obvious reference to Spacemen 3, and that, along with Spiritualized and Mercury-era Prayer Chain, is a good place to start in describing the sound of Stranger.

Most of these interpretations are not radically different than the originals, except in one respect: whereas songs such as "Low" and "She Says Electric" exploded into waves of distortion at times, their "vibe" counterparts never do, relying instead on chorus and echo pedals, as well as the soft urgency in lead singer Michael J. Pritzlís voice to get their power across. Pritzl is helped, as always, by a member of his usual throng of female back-up singersóthis time around, itís Melissa Barnett.

Violet Burning fans will know most of these songs, although quite a few of them come from the long out-of-print albums Strength and Chosen, and thus Stranger is the only place to get them. Theyíre all in the worship vein that the band is beginning to become known for, although theyíre quite a bit rawer and edgier than, say, "Shout to the Lord." Instead, Pritzl tends to rip his heart open in the manner of King David, showing not only his desperation ("Low"), but also his joy ("There is Nowhere Else").

What I find really interesting and worth noting is the fine line between the spiritual and the sensual in these songs. Pritzl apparently does not draw a line (and nor should he), and even builds more haze around the issue by following "Baby, donít let go" with "Spirit, donít let go" in "Arabic Tremelo Radio." All the great rock stars, of course, from Little Richard to Marvin Gaye to Bono, have mixed the religious and the sexual in this manner, and essays could be (and have been) written on the implications of this. Iíll spare you another one.

All in all, this is a wonderful album for those seeking something more honest than typical praise and worship music, for fans of The Violets, or for those who canít abide the current lack of drone music in the "Christian" scene.

Michial Farmer (8/15/2001)

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