This past June, the Myrtle Beach, SC hardcore band Hundredth released their fourth LP, RARE. It’s an outstanding album — it won a spot on our midyear list of 2017’s best — but it also represented a dizzying and dramatic shift for the band and its longtime fans. Hundredth may be classified as a hardcore group, but nobody could reasonably classify RARE as hardcore. It’s aggro metallic shoegaze, the kind of stuff played by ’90s cult acts like Catherine Wheel, Swervedriver, and Hum. Given the options available to the band, I’m curious what the next Hundredth album will sound like — I wonder if they’ll veer back toward the sound established on their first three LPs or if they’ll drift further into RARE-ified air — but in the meantime, the band’s frontman, Chadwick Johnson, is fully exploring his dreamier influences via his new solo project, Pure Violet.
When I say Pure Violet is a “new” solo project, I mean, like, really goddamn new. Like, it is literally being unveiled to the public in this very place at this very moment: right here, right now. I don’t know if Johnson has a label lined up for a Pure Violet LP, or if he even plans to release a Pure Violet LP. But according to a statement from his publicist, “Pure Violet has been a long-developing project that is finally being revealed to the world.” Here’s what Johnson had to say about it:
It’s basically a bedroom project, I make all the music at home by myself. Most songs start with some analog drum samples and synthesizers and I just kind of go from there… I’d never felt like I had the production or songwriting skills to make music like this, but I think I’m starting to turn a corner as of late and it feels like the right time to put this into the world.
The two songs he’s putting into the world today — “Garden” and “Numb” — sound pretty damn great for a bedroom project. In both texture and tone, they immediately recall some of the best post-punk, dream-pop, and shoegaze bands of the ’80s and ’90s: Slowdive, Cocteau Twins, Chameleons, the Cure, New Order… They’re rhythmic and melodic and melancholy and otherworldly. If nothing else, these songs provide a fascinating companion to RARE, giving some indication of Johnson’s deeper musical acumen and the full palette with which he was working when he helped choreograph the bold leap made by Hundredth. But I think these songs do a whole lot more than just that. I think they indicate an ability that’s only now being harnessed, from a songwriter capable of much greater work still. I think Pure Violet gives Johnson an opportunity to express an entirely unique artistic vision, one that exists parallel to his work in Hundredth, even while overlapping in places.
But you don’t have to give a shit about any of that to appreciate this. Even if you just think these are two perfectly wistful, spectral, beautiful songs, that’s enough. Even if these wind up being the only two songs ever released by Pure Violet, they’ll still be two perfectly wistful, spectral, beautiful songs. Listen.