On the surface, it’s somewhat counter-intuitive that Copenhagen group Vår’s name translates to the Danish word for “spring”. While spring is a season that evokes ideas of new, bright beginnings, Vår’s tense and gloomy electronic music often encapsulates a feeling of dark isolation better associated with winter. In that regard, War, their original name, may have been the more appropriate selection. Prompted by copyright concerns (The “Cisco Kid” likely ain’t no friend of theirs), the change in moniker was made. On No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers, Vår challenges the initial doomed impression it creates with a sincere foundation of hope. Its moments of expressive, melancholic beauty inspire but ultimately the album falls short of telling a complete story.
Following in the footsteps of contemporaries Cold Cave and Lust For Youth, the project of childhood friends Elias Bender Rønnefelt (Iceage) and Loke Rahbek (Sexdrome) deconstructs layers of punk aggression and filters them through the lens of synthesized, darkwave music. For its Sacred Bones debut, the original duo employed new members Kristian Emdal (of Lower) and Lukas Højland to record in a studio located behind Brooklyn’s Heaven Street record store, owned by Sean Ragon of labelmates Cult Of Youth.
Over a haunting drone, Rønnefelt’s yearning, desolate vocals enter “Begin To Remember” in a tense state of confinement. While these traits aren’t dissimilar from his Iceage demeanor, here he appears vulnerable and hopeful that there may be a way out rather than being cornered into the visceral anger that detachment can inspire. With Rahbek singing, “The World Fell” fully ignites that glimmer of hope into uplifting synth-pop. The lyrics may be grounded in apocalyptic notions but somehow Earth’s demise has never felt quite so inviting. Likewise, “Picture Of Today/Victorial” confidently marches along, combining the noise experiments throughout the album with an ability to craft an inspiring anthem.
Those experiments, however, are what tends to put the album in its own way. For example, “Boy” is a bleak 3-minute track of expansive synth drone that achieves its intended mood but feels more like an obstruction in the flow of the record. Similarly, “Hair Like Feathers” implements interesting sounds and uses of rhythm all on its own but doesn’t serve the record as a whole. Once they get there, “Into Distance” is yet another powerful and accessible offering with a pagan-folk temperament that’s not dissimilar from Ragon’s work in Cult Of Youth.
Barely over a half-hour long, the album’s end comes as a surprise with each and every listen. Although the dark, pulsing beauty of “Katla” feels like an appropriate close, somehow No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers feels too brief in relation to the depth of its emotions. Combined with the lulls of the noise tracks and its brevity, the undeniable strength of its best songs does not receive a formidable enough supporting cast. With youth on its side, there are plenty of encouraging signs here that indicate the same optimistic kind of potential for Vår that’s intrinsic to the season with which it shares a name.