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VIVIAN New Album 'Pressure Makes Diamonds'

Vivian’s album title contains a valuable truth. It takes physical pressure to produce diamonds, science tells us. What’s good enough for diamonds, one imagines, is also good for humans. In wanting what feels best for us, however, we try as best we can to avoid being under pressure. We want to live life at our own pace, without anyone pushing us forward faster than we’re willing to go. This is natural. Of course, such resistant behavior can oftentimes lead to unhealthy actions, such as procrastination. We may not like to admit this, but sometimes that unwanted pressure brings out the best in us.

The album’s title cut ends with the repeated phrase, “What are we waiting for?” It’s as if to suggest, pressure is necessary, whether we want it or not. Nobody can imagine a world without diamonds. They’re one of nature’s most beautiful creations. Similarly, much of the best humanity is created out of stressful, pressured circumstances. No pain, no gain, as the coach used to say.

Alana Rolfe and Timo Massa, from Fort Collins, CO, comprise the duo Vivian. This act has been compared to Portishead and The Cure, and one can certainly hear the electronic music influence of Portishead on this pair’s music. Rolfe is the voice of Vivian and sings its songs. Yes, much of this music can be dark and foreboding. However, one titled “Only Here” finds Rolfe singing with playfulness, over a bubbling electronic music arrangement. Indeed, this is fun music, and nicely adds variety to the overall impact of the album’s songs. It gets dark quick, however, with “Blood Rising,” the very next track. Its music is an ominous, semi-reggae groove. Rolfe sings this one in a low vocal register that brings Siouxsie Sioux to mind. Instrumentally, this recording also works in reggae dub elements, as well. Vivian returns to reggae-inspired sounds for “It Will Be Fine.” For this track, the duo creates a bass-heavy synth-pop exercise, which is quite appealing.

There’s plenty of sonic variety on this project, with further proof offered by “And Everybody Knows.” For this one, Rolfe returns to a relatively more lighthearted vocal. She sings this by incorporating high

notes. She truly has a wide vocal range. She can sound like a dangerous femme fatale one moment, then a sweet songbird the next. This gives Vivian plenty of sonic tools with which to work. Seemingly, whatever a song requires, Rolfe can deliver.

Although Vivian references the pressured, diamond creation process, the act still makes its music creation sound easy. The album closes with a soft one, “Stop My Heart.” Revealing yet another vocal personality, Rolfe sings this one with a light, breathy tone, over an enjoyable synth groove.

While not listing Eurythmics as an influence, it’s easy to spot comparable traits in both that British act and this American duo. Both are duos. Each features an expressive, flexible singer. These two also have eclectic musical taste, which leads to multiple styles of songs.

Vivian is a group to keep your eye on. These two artists clearly bring out the best in each other, making his is one sparkling album.

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