Raised Voices

All made up: Emily Mantuma, Ollie Dodge, and Kelsy Crawford of Vox Vermillion
Daniel Corrigan

You were maybe expecting hip hop? They may not hew to that particular genre, but Vox Vermillion, the first act signed to Slug and MURS's new Women imprint, exudes a rich bouquet of battle. "I play music to make people feel something, to make them feel something--good, bad--just to make them feel," Vox Vermillion bassist Ollie Dodge explains, late afternoon sunlight pouring through the Dubliner's front window at his back.

"Or even just to resolve something," singer and keyboardist Kelsy Crawford adds. "Emily and I did not like each other when we first met. It was extremely mutual." Cellist Emily Mantuma elaborates: "Now we're best friends. We had to fight and hug our way through it. Finally, we were both like, 'Hey, I don't have to be so fuckin' defensive; there's plenty of room for everybody, and everyone's ideas.'"

The three of them could be a Hollywood high-concept band: Mantuma, with a tousled pink bob and bull ring; longtime boyfriend Dodge, tall, with a robust halo of shortish brown curls and a slightly overcharged demeanor, like a 10-volt gizmo plugged into a 12-volt adapter; Crawford, willowy, with long, straight, chestnut hair and a Clive Barker heroine sort of wholesomeness. (Drummer and human rights advocate Eric Vong is out canvassing.) You can't help but suspect that they gravitate toward candor even when sober, which everyone at the table is most certainly not.

"I don't set out to make people uncomfortable," claims Crawford. Still, she's not one to beat around the lyrical bush. Standing Still to Move Forward, the St. Paul-based quartet's third album, touches on masturbation ("Wanted"), inner death ("Underground"), and apparent madness ("Psycho") with gleeful determination. "You made me laugh/You thought you were coming/Fuck you anyway/I thought I was funny," Crawford coos nonchalantly to a real-life parent on "Macbeth," over pulsing bass and a lightly mocking piano figure that foreshadows the song's chorus of concatenated "ha"s.

Nothing on the disc seems altogether unfamiliar; its classical flourishes evoke Goldfrapp's otherworldly early stuff, while the marriage of luminous sounds and sardonic words suggests subtle Swedish transgression artists Cinnamon. Vox Vermillion's best and most consistent trick is tackling squirmy topics with a total absence of melodrama.

Details aside, the story with Women is short and sweet. They're friends with Sean Daley. He's a fan. They've already toured with Atmosphere once and plan to go out again. "Sean's been unbelievably helpful," says Crawford. "We've been around for five years and it finally feels like we're getting some attention."

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