Virginia Plain — Strange Game (Dec. 13, 2019)
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Album release: December 13, 2019
Record Label: All Hands Electric
01 Jan Song 2:39
02 End Game 3:46
03 Resolution 2:50
04 Darker Train 3:55
05 Again Again 2:45
06 Classical 2:20
07 Penny 4:28
08 Trials 3:13
09 House of Aces 3:38
10 Firetide 4:04
11 Strange Game 3:50
• All songs written by Alfra Martini
• Performed, recorded, and produced by Virginia Plain
Virginia Plain is:
• Alfra Martini — vocals, synthesizers
• Justin Miller — Bass, synthesizers
• Robert Boston — piano, synthesizers
• Christian Reinhardsen — drums, rhythm machines, guitar, synthesizers with additional guitar by Zachary Cale.
• Mixed & engineered by Ryan Casey and Justin Miller
• Mastered by Josh Bonati
• Recorded in Brooklyn, NYC in 2013.
• Cover Art/Graphic Design: Alfra Martini
• Jackets silk screened by Keegan Cooke (Circadian Press).
• Lyric insert included.Review
Virginia Plain, a project created by Alfra Martini, has returned.
by Zachary Cale | December 1st, 2019
♦ Virginia Plain, a project created by Alfra Martini, has returned.
After appearing on the scene in 2012 with a lone 7” single Virginia Plain vanished like a rock n roll ghost, forever delegated to haunt the jukeboxes of an imaginary future. Fast~forward 6 years Virginia Plain has reappeared with a debut album, entitled ‘Strange Game’.
♦ Alter egos are nothing new in music and Martini aligns herself with singers such as Deborah Harry, David Bowie, Madonna, Kate Bush and Bryan Ferry, singers that are unabashed in their drive to project something bigger than themselves. Virginia Plain is mythical, a changeling.
♦ With a stage name taken from a Roxy Music character you could almost imagine her to be any one of the models adorning one of their glossy LP covers. Those images are oddly seductive yet garish as if there’s something darkly hidden beneath all that make up. Martini is an expert at striking the balance between the bawdy and broken hearted. Behind every sly smile there’s a chipped tooth, behind every glittering tear a devilish glance.
♦ Thematically the album reaches into the prisons of solitary confinement and pulls out plucky dreamers and battle~bruised fighters, isolated figures searching for a sort of redemption or acceptance. Half the characters in the album seem to be in a constant state of unrest reaching out to questionable or unattainable goals, while their counterparts (though wary and contemplative) respond with hope and resignation so that the album settles into a perpetual state of interlocution and equivocation — the natural state of the romantic, or perhaps the unending “strange game” of life.
♦ Musically the album has a distinctive range of style. The songs shift between down tempo ballads, to cold and abstract synth~heavy gothic rock, and new romantic 80’s pop. The ballads have a touch of the bittersweet, incorporating husky vocals over austere piano phrases, recalling the work of artists like Portishead or PJ Harvey. The darker electronic songs feel akin to goth divas like Siouxsie Sioux and Peter Murphy, with feisty tounge n’cheek vocals over 808 style drumbeats and intersecting synthesizer melodies. The catchier tracks hold nothing back. They’re emotional and thrilling like the best pop songs from the punk, glam and new wave era. Songs like “Resolution” and “Strange Game” live up to the legacy of Blondie and The Psychedelic Furs.
♦ But supporting it all is Martini center stage crooning like a pre~war Jazz singer or snarling and spitting at the microphone as if possessed. Her voice is imperfect but unique in that it can be both sharp and resonant and fragile but powerful all in the same phrase. Most notably, it is emotive and clear with occasional soaring moments, almost mariachi~like with 80’s pop dramatics and an elegant sense of melody.
♦ Playing with the blues as idiom with lyrical observations that cut to the quick Martini is a simplistic but clever writer. Wild mood swings and contradictory couplets abound. These are songs for the desperate and restless. The dark~heart dancers and sleepless romantics.
“And when did she wear that velvet gown
And why did she stand alone?
And why are these nights so amplified
When there’s nothing left to hold?
Turn around now, the game is over
Nobody holds the dice
Go celebrate with another lover
And bask in the light of her eyes”