It was time for the Raveonettes to get back to the noise. After the art-pop duo went for a more conventional pop sound on its last album, 2005's Pretty in Black, Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner literally distort sonic boundaries on their latest CD, Lust Lust Lust.
"It wasn't intentional," Foo says, referring to the noisy production on the duo's third album. She and Wagner headline the Ottobar tomorrow night and Washington's Black Cat on Saturday. "It was what happened. We liked the intimacy and darkness of the material, and that became the direction of the album."
In a way, the new album is a return to form. Foo's glacial vocals and Wagner's crashing, sometimes bleak arrangements are reminiscent of Chain Gang of Love, the Raveonettes' cinematic 2003 debut. That album garnered the duo from Copenhagen, Denmark, critical kudos in indie-rock circles. But Pretty in Black killed the momentum. It was generally panned for its fussy, overly slick production. The collisional yet melodic songs that made the debut such a standout were supplanted by predictable, decidedly lightweight pop ditties.
"It was a part of growth," Foo succinctly says of the album.
But for Lust Lust Lust, the two play up their strengths. Even with the title, the group wanted the album to jump out.
"The title song is the centerpiece of the album," says Foo, who last week was traveling in Canada. "But graphically, it looks good to have the repetition of the word on the cover."
Musically, Wagner took over the production from Richard Gottherer and stripped away the glossy layers of Pretty in Black. The sound throughout, often heavy in reverb, is fiery and multidimensional. Distortion comes in and out like intense waves of heat. For instance, "Aly, Walk With Me," which opens the new CD, struts on a muscular, slightly funky backbeat. Electric guitar notes echo and reverberate.
Then suddenly, as Foo's icy voice glides through it all, the song gives way to a deafening burst of noise. All 14 songs are full of unexpected twists and turns, as Foo and Wagner sweetly croon songs about dark hearts, unhealthy devotion and deceit.
"It was more organic this time," says the bassist-singer, who's based in Los Angeles. "It happened with bigger, rounder songs. It was minimal production this time. It's the most intimate album so far. The dissonance and distortion add to the intensity of the music."
Bored with the conventional music in their homeland, Foo and Wagner formed the Raveonettes in the early part of the decade. Wagner had tried to start a band in New York City in the late '90s. But when that fell through, he returned to Denmark and hooked up with Foo, a singer on the club circuit. Both had eclectic musical tastes -- from Hindustani classical music to Velvet Underground. As a duo, they synthesized their favorite styles, overlaying it all with experimental electronic textures.
"It was about wanting to make a band with the elements that make the perfect band," Foo says. "There's a very distinctive sound you want. With us, it's very much about tension between the freedom and the noise. It's a combination of the modern sounds and the inspiration we've always had. All the albums are different."
The two look for musical surprises.
"We like to just see where it all goes," Foo says, the reception becoming loudly distorted. "Hello? Can you hear me? Whatever we do, it will be interesting."
And she fades out.
See the Raveonettes at the Ottobar, 2549 N. Howard St., at 9 tomorrow night. Tickets are $13 and are available through missiontix.com or by calling 410-662-0069. Or see the two at Black Cat, 1811 14th St. N.W., Washington, at 9 Saturday night. Tickets are $15 and are available through Ticketmaster by calling 410-547-7328 or by going to ticketmaster.com.