This isn't really
the follow-up to last year's Roulette
-- it's a stopgap release, featuring three new songs and a handful of hard-to-find (in the US, at least) tracks from the group's EPs. If you're at all familiar with Violet Indiana, you know it's a supergroup of sorts, combining the talents of the Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie and Mono's Siobhan de Maré. If you're familiar with those groups, you'll know exactly what each brings to the party: Guthrie provides the luxuriant, ethereal, vibratoed guitar tones, while de Maré's vocals suggest a slightly-less-icy version of Portishead's Beth Gibbons. And that's the problem with Violet Indiana -- they so precisely meet your expectations that no matter how good the music might be, you can't help but be disappointed by the sheer dearth of surprises.
That said, it's unreasonable to expect much growth from the band at this point, given that the majority of Casino is also-ran material from the Roulette session -- so let's concentrate on the newer songs. "Bang Bang" is the disc's grandest track, submerging a probing bass line and clattering processed percussion beneath layer upon layer of Guthrie's shimmering guitar chords. It'll please shoegazers and Cocteau fans, though it's far from an original sound. The group's cover of Jacques Brel's ballad "Ne Me Quitte Pas" -- a song that's been remade a lot lately -- is a showcase for de Maré's talents; she has a much warmer voice than Gibbons et al, which is important here, as the song's plea to a departing lover falls flat without a palpable display of emotion. "Heaven", the final new track, shifts from minimalist balladry to languorous, gauzy syrup, with heavy harmonization on de Maré's choruses. It's pretty, but again, the concept isn't new.
If all you want to hear is a pair of seasoned performers playing to their strengths, Casino won't disappoint; it's a polished, elegant effort. It's a great comfort album, meeting your expectations with dogged determination, but never exceeding them. If you're hoping to hear Guthrie and de Maré push the envelope a bit, you're better off crossing your fingers and waiting for their next album.