May 22, 2013

Album Review: VÅR's No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers

The Danish underground has wedged its way into becoming a worldwide force of domineering DIY punk and noise influences over the past two years spearheaded by the breakthroughs from hardcore antagonists Iceage and Lower. What’s remarkable about the community, however, is that uncovering the scene reveals how many of its members (alongside those from neighboring Sweden) are conjoined through offshoot projects who share only slight stylistic overlaps with their primary focus. There’s an entirely different dimension of depth into these rising artists’ potential left to be assessed through them, and with the name recognition of Iceage’s Elias Rønnenfelt and Lower’s Kristian Emdal behind it alongside friends Loke Rahbek of Sexdrome and Lukas Højland, VÅR is understandably the most visible of them all.

The band’s debut No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers challenges each punk's outward physicality and unrestrained chaos heard within their respective works with palpable pop textures that offer a tender juxtaposition to their hardcore-laced other-halves. And yet, you don’t have to delve too far beyond No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers’ synthetic skin to uncover that VÅR, like the collective’s other directions, is rained over by weathered anxiousness that permeates its way into the Copenhagen underground's cast of characters much like dreary lore did to Manchester or an indifference toward modern-day materialism did Seattle. Despite being recorded Stateside inside a home studio in Bushwick, the elements carry over regardless in tracks like "Begin to Remember" and "Hair Like Feathers" where Rønnenfelt's dissonant cries wrapped around a minimalist arrangement of pulsing synths sound destined to meet their doom (which isn't to say that the LP's flashier moments such as "The World Fell" and "Pictures of Today / Victorial" don't carry a heavy-hearted polarity emphasized by a militant funeral march across a broken path of bright guitar static, trumpeted victory loops and upbeat tempos.)

Staying within their DIY comfort zone of subterranean production and weathered emotions indeed makes VÅR's debut feel like a proper extension of Iceage and Lower meant to be played in small, dark corners if only in context (that honor ironically would be more astute for their Sacred Bones labelmate Pharmakon and her remarkable newly-released effort Abandon,) but looser songwriting and evaporating most of its members' familiar studio tools behind a wall of broken glass and sheet metal samples, stripped acoustics, percussive loops and industrial electronics otherwise tells you that No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers should not be looked at as a counterpart to their mainstay connections. The album doesn't concentrate too closely on cohesion and is cause for a few wandering but forgivable transitions across the nine track listen, but for every vacant instrumental segue (the title track, "Boy," "Katla") there's promising reinforcement to be heard in VÅR's traditional "pop" leanings ("Motionless Duties," "Into Distance.") Maybe the four friends aren't yet ready to outshine their associated acts, but as far as debuts go, there's a future for VÅR's own kind of bleakness.

VÅR's No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers is available now on Sacred Bones Records.

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