The music of Iceland is a lesson in quality over quantity. The land of fire and ice has produced such critical eminences as Sigur Rós and Björk, a population of just 325,000 no barrier to artistic excellence. And emerging trio Vök have the potential to be the next such luminary: Their debut EP,Tension, is as beautiful and dreamy as the landscapes from which they hail.
Formed in the fishing village of Hafnarfjörður as recently as last year, Vök’s rise from the isolation of the unknown to the warmth of the wider world has been rapid and remarkable. Winning national music competition Músíktilraunir was an early highlight, and soon their silvery electronic sound was the cream of the Reykjavik music scene. International notice followed; One track from the EP, ‘Before’, has now amassed hundreds of thousands of plays via SoundCloud.
Originally released in 2013, Tension is dual-language, featuring two tracks in English and three in Icelandic. The EP possesses a consistently melancholy chill, Margrét Rán’s vocals entrancing and atmospheric. The most interesting element of Vök’s sound however comes courtesy of saxophonist Andri Enoksson. His instrument resonates throughout, appearing where less cultured bands might add a bland guitar lick or a brief solo. His talented contribution at a live show would, I suspect, be worth the admission fee alone.
Vök describe themselves as experimental, but Tension is pop enough to remain accessible. Opener ‘Við vökum’ begins with rumbling noise and sparse bursts of electronica before developing with catchy riffs, a delicate vocal and crucial saxophony. It’s an able sign of what’s to come and a comfortable opener.
Vök’s English language offerings follow. The aforementioned “Before” is an early recording and the poppiest of the two, notably lacking in electronic elements. Deserving of the attention it has received, it has been part of my personal playlist for some time. Title track ‘Tension’ is even better. A delicious, ethereal number complimented by Margrét’s refrains, in parts it struts a dub feel.
Pleasingly, Tension doesn’t peter out into mediocrity as it draws to a close. ‘Ég bíð þín’ features a slightly cheap drum kick but is nonetheless a pleasant downbeat pop song. The curtains draw with the moody and glacial ‘A ný’. The standard refuses to dip, their unique indie-electro sound maintained to a high level.
Vök have emerged from humble beginnings less than two years ago to complete a record that is exceptional from start to finish. A must-hear in Autumn 2014,Tension is formally released internationally on October 21st, and is available to order now on CD and vinyl via the curiously named Record Records. 8.0/10