Bydgoszcz (1986)
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
Appropriately enough, you are probably wondering who Variété is and why you have never heard of them.  I had never heard of them either, but the Furia Musica label from Poland sent us this CD to review, and as it turns out, Variété were a Gothic Rock band from Poland that was active throughout the late 1980ís.  I donít know exactly how popular they were during their existence, but over sixteen years later, their plodding and heavily atmospheric music still holds up wonderfully.  I am doubly thankful that the label saw fit to re-release this lost treasure and that they were kind enough to share this music with us because this is indeed a rare gem.  The CD collects the bandís ten track 1986 release entitled ďBydgoszczĒ and then six extremely powerful live tracks recorded in 1989.
Variété may very well have been the only Goth band active in Poland around this time, and were probably influenced by imported British or German records.  Whatís interesting is that they seemed to have honed in on the darkest and dreariest aspects of Goth.  The way in which they pulled all these disparate elements together is fresh and utterly transfixing.  I hate to do this, but when I first listened to this disc, I heard distinctive elements that instantly brought other bands to mind.  If you can imagine the perfect synthesis of early And Also The Trees, Corpus Delicti, Theatre Of Hate, Joy Division and the vocal style of Two Witches, then you will know what to expect from Variété.
Most of the songs creep along at a dense and doom laden pace, with either jagged tribal percussion or punchy, unrelenting rhythms pounding at the musicís black core.  Distinctive and thunderous bass lines appear consistently throughout the record, sometimes light and lulling and other times, loose and plucked with slap-dash fury.  The guitars jangle with sublime eeriness.  Rich, heavily flanged processing effects characterize the more reflective passages, giving way to sharp pinches of sonic discordance for climactic moments.  Barely any synths grace this record Ė instead, the band and offer spare violin passages on a few of the albumís later tracks. But primarily, ghostly wails of saxophone provide the additional dimensions of atmosphere throughout the majority of the disc.  Like quite a few bands at the time, there is a full-time saxophone player in the line-up, and it works for Variété much the same as it did for Theatre Of Hate, early Sad Lovers & Giants and the Nephilim on their debut EP.  Itís a unique sound that you definitely donít hear too often.
Led by heavily accented male vocals, the voice of Variété is a stark, menacing baritone.  At times, his voice is more reserved and leering in shadow, and then as if a man pushed over the edge, he lunges forth unexpectedly, animated with a sudden rage, his words seething with spite and threatening anxiety.  Not quite screaming, but certainly not resting on his laurels.  The music surges forward, and a new dimension of theatricality and decadent earnestness animates the band that reminds me of what And Also The Trees were doing at the time this band was recording, and what Corpus Delicti would do in only a few short years.
Even more mysterious to American ears, is of course, the fact that all of these lyrics and song titles are in Polish.  Some might find this frustrating, but personally I found it exotic and intriguing.  For one, they could be singing about anything our imaginations wish, and the bleak urgency of their music is not spoiled by lyrics that may or may not well-suited for it.  The deep throated and edgy deliveries that shade the vocals perfectly match the musical backdrops, and as listeners, the obvious and irrevocable sense of foreign alienation only colours the experience of this disc a shade darker.
When it comes to Gothic Rock, sometimes its those odd or secret bands as opposed to the big name acts that end up being the most creative and interesting, and immerse themselves so heavily in the classic sound of the genre.  This is a dark and unsettling record from start to finish.  Itís cold, detached, and there is a chilling undercurrent of tension running beneath these tracks that threatens to boil over. The atmosphere builds with each track, culminating in the hypnotic tribal climax of the title track and then bonus cuts from the bandís live EP.   The final six live tracks are three times as intense as the studio performance.  With a big, jarringly raw sound, the band is at their prime of attack.  The quality of the recording is quite good though not without a few minor flaws.  But most importantly, the sheer unbridled intensity of the bandís performance is captured and instantly apparent to the listener. The slightly grainy sound only adds to the experience.
Variété keeps the listener on edge, crafting the kind of claustrophobic and moldy dread that can truly be referred to without hesitation as pure Gothic artistry. I highly recommend this to fans of dangerous, edgy, and dark Gothic rock.  Itís an absolutely awesome collection.  I suppose the easiest way to contact these guys is via the website and links below.  Drop them a line and inquire on how to purchase this disc, as it is well worth tracking down.

Furia Musica: