Tag Archives: Xavier Watkins

Violet Woods, released Nov 2014

Track by track review of the recent self-titled LP/CD from Cambridge band Violet Woods. An adventure in indie psychedelia…..

1. Electric Fascination. A strong, brooding opening track. The shimmering 12-string guitar figure opens the song then persists through variations as the echoing vocal competes. It is a walk through the trees (woods) on the LP sleeve with occasional glimpses of the brighter sky.
2. Over the Ground. A companion piece to track 1, again with a sinister guitar phrase dominating, backed with descending organ and vocal layers. A fuzzed electric guitar solo takes us to an abrupt end.
3. Here. A resolution to the first two songs, an optimistic pop song with a heartfelt statement of contentment. A simple and affecting lyric, the title barely mentioned but the sentiment very clear. Uplifting guitar lines and well judged sustained keyboards.
4. The Dancer. Appropriately titled, a bit funky this one, when played live it is an energetic high point of the show. Skips around at first, light touch on the bass, then from nowhere a big noisy finale.
5. Take Your Time. A low key ballad, but definitely a grower. Singer Xavier Watkins delivers one of his best vocals on the album, plaintive and subtle. Guitar, drums and organ given plenty of time to build on a repeated phrase at the end.
6. What I Need. Mid-tempo compact structure based around a staccato drum pattern, passes along nicely but not quite the same immersing ambience of the other songs.
7. Raw Love. The band’s debut single from late 2012. A carefully crafted catchy pop song, radio-friendly hook line, if only all radio was as good as 6 Music.
8. Driftwood Royalty. I really like this one, so laid back, could be from the sixties or eighties, it floats in and out again like some sort of impressionist reverie.
9. The River. The rest of the album paves the way for this track, it draws on all the others to create a complex epic, musically driven by military precision drumming, punctuated by restful passages with underlying tension. The last two minutes of the song goes into drumming and guitar overdrive before the final sustained note, tempting us back to track 1…

Overall an accomplished debut, excellent production and deserving of repeated listens (it sounds good live too!)


Violet Woods, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 7 November 2014

This was the launch party for the new album by Violet Woods, a Cambridge based five-piece led by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Xavier Watkins. The psychedelic tone was set by DJ Rich Hero, playing very obscure and ultra-cool vinyl singles from the late sixties and early seventies, accompanied by oil slide projections on the ceiling.

The opening act were Riverane, previously reviewed on this site as support to The Hot Lights and moving their sound on into darker territory since then, as the vocals of lead singer Gabriel Coulter twist around the continually varying musical moods.

Violet Woods hit the stage with an instrumental introduction, then straight into ‘Over The Ground’ from their self-titled album. It is a retro sound, lovingly recreating and extending the late sixties pop/rock/psychedelic vibe with some modern edges. On record it is mostly fairly smooth and relaxed but live there is no holding back, with added echo to the voices, over a powerful instrumental backing, such as when 12-string guitar and organ are thrashing away in the ending of ‘The Dancer’. To make a Cambridge early Pink Floyd connection, it is definitely more ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ than ‘Grantchester Meadows’…

Probably my favourite song, ‘Electric Fascination’ is based around an eerie descending 12-string figure, repeating and competing with distant vocals. The guitar wins in the end… The reassuring chord structure of ‘Here’ is a neat pop song, ‘Driftwood Royalty’ is an optimistic dreamy lyric. The epic ‘The River’ ends the set, going through changes before an exhausting instrumental onslaught. It was a great advert for a confident and impressive debut album.