Somewhere on the map between industrial rock's frozen tundra and rave music's sunny tropics is VNV Nation
, where pulsing beats merge with philosophical constructs. The duo once exorcised its angst on every track, but, unlike some of its hole-headed contemporaries, it outgrew this approach. On Matter + Form
, its latest release, VNV Nation's thoughts are as deep as its bass tones, but songwriter Ronan Harris never stuffs too many syllables into his hooks. Above the waves
/With my hand raised
/Until the wind lays claim to me
, Harris sings during the ethereal anti-anthem "Arena." It's an intriguing image, alternately triumphant and tragic, and much of VNV's material contrasts existential euphoria with solemn awareness of mortality in an equally artful fashion. The group's current set list incorporates all five of its releases, ranging from pure electro-pop to synthesizer-enhanced symphonies to aggressively accelerated dance numbers, with assistance from auxiliary members and a consciousness-altering light show.