Review – Combine The Victorious – Autonomous


Combine The Victorious are an electronic, progressive pop band that has great melodies and equally great lyrics.  Buying the new album Autonomous on iTunes was a real gem in the cave of music that is iTunes.  The album was released on September 13, 2015 to the masses and the twelve songs are very good and was easy to listen to and dance around my apartment getting coffee and dinner together.

mark henning isabel dunlop 2015

Mark R. Henning and Isabelle Dunlop

Combine the Victorious formed in Vancouver in 2007, growing from a spirited collaboration between husband and wife: record producer/engineer Mark R. Henning, formerly of Pure and Blisterene, and fashion designer Isabelle Dunlop, formerly of Sex With Strangers.  Isabelle has her own Boutique located in Vancouver, B.C.

Details:  Isabel Dunlop, Clothing, Designer & Singer, 4158 Main St., Vancouver, Hours:  Wednesday – Sunday 12-6.

Already independently successful in their chosen fields, their instinct for collaboration was soon realized on their debut full-length album The World Over. The record received both critical and popular praise, including inclusion on compilations as far afield as Toronto and the Czech Republic! The lead single, “Blue Kitchen” went on to become the theme song for the television series “About A Girl”, and was one of eight songs licensed from the record.

Drawing upon this initial success, Combine the Victorious extended to found the wider Boutique Empire Collective, gathering bands Sex With Strangers, Gilles Zolty, Guilty About Girls and other artists connected with the Vancouver scene. Despite this wider commitment, Mark reunited with Jordy Birch to form Guilty About Girls with Isabelle singing with both Guilty About Girls and Sex With Strangers.  And all the while, Combine the Victorious continued to evolve.

Subsequent releases, Disagreements and Crumbling Hearts saw the band refining their musical identity, distilling to a powerful, evocative essence and perfectly captured on the standout track from Crumbling Hearts, the song “Glasgow”, where sumptuous guitars weave in and out of Mark’s wily groove, a perfect backdrop for Isabelle’s melancholy lyric and heart-breaking melody.

Following a European tour as a duo to support the release of Crumbling Hearts in which they did showcases in Stockholm and London, and continued to work for two years writing and recording material for their second full length album Autonomous. A longer process than before, this album is the result of collaborations with Don Harrison, Stefan Sigerson, Ingrid Schroeder, Leigh Grant and several other highly talented artists from the Vancouver music scene. Once again, Combine the Victorious fuse elements of electronica, rock, dance and pop into a unique and compelling soundscape.

ctv_autonomous_iTunes

With Autonomous, I can clearly hear and see the evolution and progression of a band with a lot of talent.  The track listing is as follows:

  1.   Hardly Spoken
  2.   Recharge
  3.   Stand In Front Of Tanks
  4.   Caught Up To You
  5.   California ’15
  6.   Smoke and Choke
  7.   Happy Girl
  8.   Best Tonight
  9.   Stop Givin’ Up On Love
  10.   Real Life Turns Me On
  11.   Encryption
  12.   It’s Still On
The first track “Hardly Spoken” is a smack in the face to wake you up to the fact that is band is to be reckoned with in a respectful way in regards to what the album has in store for you.  With choppy and chunky guitar tracks, this song speaks about destruction and devotion, giving up and the like, and they make it clear that it’s been too many times.  However, the chorus is the flip side of the song, and is about hope and not giving in to giving up.  The melody is sweet and matches Isabelle’s fuzzed out vocals that make a great statement in the structure of this song.

“Recharge” is making a fresh start after recharging the batteries.  A sharp guitar picks out the backbone of the song and is almost a bass line which is a perfect match to the melody, which comes in and out of the structure of the song itself.  The guitar work is very good and fits in the song seamlessly.  Awesome.

The third song “Stand In Front Of Tanks” reminds me of a picture of a loan man in Tiananmen Square from China. This song is fast and upbeat with a great electronic start to it, and the melody takes off into the clouds.  Standard drum tracks, which is a background vocal, made me laugh.  I don’t know why, I just found that amusing.  I like the build up of everything towards the end of the song, and handclaps always work in any song.

tiananmen

Tiananmen Square, China, June 5, 1989. Photo: Jeff Widener

“Caught Up To You” has a very catchy guitar groove.  The song explodes with “Woo!” in the background with the pounding melody sounds good.  It’s a great dance/raver song if that’s your scene.

“California ’15” is a slower, more bluesy song with jazz over-tunes throughout the song.  I really like the way it draws you in and washes over you in just over four minutes.  A very pleasant song to chill on.

In “Smoke and Choke”, you have a groovy electronic beat that carries the melody and the whole song.  I like the drum machine changes in this song.  Uniquely done.

“Happy Girl” is upbeat and has a playful feeling to it.  The electronica is the backbone of the song and fuzzed out guitars in places and this gives it a positive feeling in the melody.  This song reminds me of electronica for hippies everywhere, but the truth is that this song is for everyone.  A good dance song.

The song “Best Tonight” has a good combination of guitars and electronica.  Upbeat, positive and making it makes for a good song in the collection of the album.  The beat is solid, the electronica sounds melancholy for a second and it gels with the vocals.  The harmonies are particularly good in this song.

The last 4 songs are in the same vein as the rest of the album.  They are languid, fast, upbeat, melancholy and almost sweet with the song “Giving Up On Love”.  I highly recommend that if you like structured electronica with twists and turns and great dance tunes as well as chillin’ out then this record should be in your playlist.  “Real Life Turns Me On” totally reminds me of being in Germany in October and singing songs in German, drinking beer and having fun polka dancing.

You can hear the album on their website highlighted with the band name, follow them on the Twitter highlight, visit them on Soundcloud here, find them on Bandcamp where you can also buy the album here  and visit the boutique that is Isabelle Dunlop if you are in the Vancouver area.  You can also visit their YouTube  channel to see loads of videos.