PVA – ‘Blush’ review: London dance pop maestros are impossible to ignore

pva band

Though PVA first cut their teeth on the south London scene, the trio are slightly at odds with the area’s well-ingrained reputation for ferocious, scrappy guitar music. Though the band originally worked within these parameters to land early live slots – as vocalist Ella Harris put it in an early interview with Loud and Quiet – the band’s real calling soon began to creep into the picture. Occupying a space somewhere between a sticky-floored venue and a dark, strobe-filled club, their music takes hold of the punchy, fast-paced structures of rock before shooting the whole lot through an acid-dance kaleidoscope.

By the time 2020’s debut EP ‘Toner’ came around, the transformation was complete – the release burst with disco strut and Harris and Josh Baxter’s monotonal, chanted vocals. As well as perhaps the most obvious comparison, LCD Soundsystem, it recalled the avant-garde style of queercore artist SSION, experimental dance producer Planningtorock, and the warmly melodic dance-pop of The Knife.

Debut album ‘Blush’, meanwhile, seems to be partially informed by the static mundanity of life in lockdown. “I caught up to the little running men, all neon / In their streamlined running leggings,” Harris deadpans on opener ‘Untethered’, blinking in the bright light of a once-daily lockdown outing (remember those heady days?). “I asked, ‘What’s the meaning of all this? When will it end?’” On ‘Bunker’, meanwhile, Baxter sings of stockpiling up anxieties; of “faces staring” and sleepless nights. Though it could well be named in honour of low-ceilinged Deptford club The Bunker – a regular spot for the band – there’s also a sense of letting loose after holing away in a protective, and slightly claustrophobic, bubble to figure things out.

Despite its bright, euphoric veneer, much of ‘Blush’ is filled with the sensation of feeling slightly trapped and trying to break free – it teeters on a knife edge between celebration and summoning up the bravery to celebrate yourself in the first place. This is no more clear than on ‘Transit’; an uneasy cacophony of wailing train-horn vocals and its repetitive manta:“the space between, the space between, the space between…” On ‘Hero Man’ and ‘Bad Dad’ meanwhile, Harris interrogates how this fear of taking a leap intersects with the easy confidence of masculinity. “So what?” she shrugs, “You’re some kind of ‘hero man’.” It’s like Shania Twain’s ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’ but given an electro-clash makeover.

Though ‘Blush’ sticks with a similar palette of influences, PVA have more room to spin out their ideas across a longer release – ideas have more space to percolate, and the pacing of the record feels akin to a DJ set with its steadily building peaks of energy. Where ‘Toner’ hinted at great ideas, its successor seizes them fully.


pva band blush

  • Release date: October 14
  • Record label: Ninja Tune

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El Hunt