by Virginia Plain
Label: All Hands ElectricCatalog #: AHE - 22 Release Date: December 13, 2019Vinyl LP price: $20
Tracks: 1. Jan Song 2. End Game 3. Resolution 4. Darker Train 5. Again And Again 6. Classical 7. Penny 8. Trials 9. House Of Aces 10. Firetide 11.Strange Game
Virginia Plain original members:Alfra Martini – vocals, synthesizers Justin Miller – bass, synthesizers Robert Boston – piano, synthesizers Christian Reinhardsen – drums, beats, guitar, synthesizers Additional guitar by Zachary Cale
All songs written by Alfra Martini Arranged, performed, and produced by Virginia Plain Recorded at the All Hands House, Brooklyn NY in 2013.Engineered and mixed by Ryan Casey and Justin Miller Mastered by Josh Bonati
Jackets designed by AlfraSilkscreen by Keegan Cooke/The Circadian Press. Lyric insert included.
For more info, photos & videos about the project: VirginiaPlainNYC.com Releases December 13, 2019
Contact: alframartini at gmail dot com
Virginia Plain, a project created by Alfra Martini, has returned.
by Zachary Cale | December 1st, 2019
After appearing on the scene in 2012 with a lone 7” single Virginia Plain vanished like a rock n roll ghost, forever delegated to haunt the jukeboxes of an imaginary future. Fast-forward 6 years Virginia Plain has reappeared with a debut album, entitled 'Strange Game' set to release December, Friday the 13th, 2019.
Alter egos are nothing new in music and Martini aligns herself with singers such as Deborah Harry, David Bowie, Madonna, Kate Bush and Bryan Ferry, singers that are unabashed in their drive to project something bigger than themselves. Virginia Plain is mythical, a changeling.
With a stage name taken from a Roxy Music character you could almost imagine her to be any one of the models adorning one of their glossy LP covers. Those images are oddly seductive yet garish as if there’s something darkly hidden beneath all that make up. Martini is an expert at striking the balance between the bawdy and broken hearted. Behind every sly smile there’s a chipped tooth, behind every glittering tear a devilish glance.
Thematically the album reaches into the prisons of solitary confinement and pulls out plucky dreamers and battle-bruised fighters, isolated figures searching for a sort of redemption or acceptance. Half the characters in the album seem to be in a constant state of unrest reaching out to questionable or unattainable goals, while their counterparts (though wary and contemplative) respond with hope and resignation so that the album settles into a perpetual state of interlocution and equivocation – the natural state of the romantic, or perhaps the unending “strange game” of life.
Musically the album has a distinctive range of style. The songs shift between down tempo ballads, to cold and abstract synth-heavy gothic rock, and new romantic 80’s pop. The ballads have a touch of the bittersweet, incorporating husky vocals over austere piano phrases, recalling the work of artists like Portishead or PJ Harvey. The darker electronic songs feel akin to goth divas like Siouxsie Sioux and Peter Murphy, with feisty tounge n’cheek vocals over 808 style drumbeats and intersecting synthesizer melodies. The catchier tracks hold nothing back. They’re emotional and thrilling like the best pop songs from the punk, glam and new wave era. Songs like “Resolution” and “Strange Game” live up to the legacy of Blondie and The Psychedelic Furs.
But supporting it all is Martini center stage crooning like a pre-war Jazz singer or snarling and spitting at the microphone as if possessed. Her voice is imperfect but unique in that it can be both sharp and resonant and fragile but powerful all in the same phrase. Most notably, it is emotive and clear with occasional soaring moments, almost mariachi-like with 80's pop dramatics and an elegant sense of melody.
Playing with the blues as idiom with lyrical observations that cut to the quick Martini is a simplistic but clever writer. Wild mood swings and contradictory couplets abound. These are songs for the desperate and restless. The dark-hearted dancers and sleepless romantics.
“And when did she wear that velvet gown And why did she stand alone? And why are these nights so amplified When there’s nothing left to hold?
Turn around now, the game is over Nobody holds the dice Go celebrate with another lover And bask in the light of her eyes”
VIRGINIA PLAIN is a project by singer/songwriter Alfra Martini originally backed by Justin Miller (bass), Christian Reinhardsen (drums), and Robert Boston (piano). The music blends cabaret inspired vocals and cyber-punk synths, over both electric and acoustic arrangements. Production on Strange Games was a collaborative effort among Martini and the band with a good portion of the production and engineering done by Justin Miller.
Mining similar territory as OMD, The Eurythmics and late period Roxy Music, Virginia Plain creates mood music for slow dances and futuristic night clubs. Their first 7" was released on All Hands Electric in 2012.
Alfra Martini was born in Mexico but her family relocated to California’s San Fransisco Bay Area soon after. She grew up in different towns around the Bay, got her degree in English from UC Berkeley, and moved to NYC in 1999. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her longtime partner, singer/songwriter Zach Cale, and their two cats.
She is a freelance graphic designer who created the popular blog THE KITTEN COVERS in 2011. She designed the Strange Game's album cover as well as record covers for Zachary Cale and Plates of Cake. She has co-written songs and provided harmony vocals on Cale's acclaimed albums: Noise of Welcome, Blue Rider, & Duskland . She also has provided backup vocals to the bands: Trummors, Psychic Lines, Woodsy Pride, and Dirty Churches.
Press for Virginia Plain's 7" Electric Eyes:
“Sophisticated, night-people synth pop from NYC. . . with big, full arrangements and deep roots in the after-after party dramatics of Bryan Ferry and co. Martini keeps things on ice (so nice), because you can’t expect the party to keep going if the drinks get warm.” -Doug Mosurock (Still Single/DUSTED MAGAZINE)
“Virginia Plain’s debut comes off as a Roland 808-driven neo-gloom disco single with goth pop glam vocals. The production on this record is impressive, as is the song writing and instrumentation, leaving both tracks to take infinite turns side up as my favorite.” -I MUST FIND ATLANTIS
“This sultry echo vocal from Alfra Martini is right in the center of the spotlight and is the perfect idea of a prom band like the one at Better Off Dead, EG Daily, not done with any irony or glitch, pulling off a real track in the Siousxie style pop goth, a little bit of a snarl in that attitude.” -7 INCHES
"In the spirit of the DIY punk labels of the 80s, the founders of All Hands Electric set out not only to release their own records, but also to develop a collective approach to producing, distributing and touring behind the records." -Janice Brown, SONIC SCOOP
"But it's worth remembering that, despite universal access, there are still gate keepers, and they are fallible. Artists slip through the cracks, others get through untested. The path of the truly independent musician is a difficult one. And yet it's the path we've found Zachary Cale on for the past decade or so. He's an independent musician out of Brooklyn who, with help from friends, runs a small record label called All Hands Electric." - Matthew Fiander, POP MATTER
For more info, photos & videos about the project:
The LP jackets in printing production
Virginia Plain Union Pool, Brooklyn 2020, photo by Ryan Casey
Still from Darker Train Video
Alfra Martini, Brooklyn 2015