Virak, Threads

I’m of that dwindling, unfashionable mindset that still rates Radiohead’s OK Computer as one of the best albums of the ’90s. As is well known, Thom Yorke was so confused and overwhelmed by the massive worldwide success of that record that he deliberately turned away from its epic, widescreen style and steered Radiohead towards a series of anodyne follow-ups, short on inspiration and long on anaemic electronica. Those who still hanker after the expansive, anthemic qualities of OK Computer and its predecessor The Bends could do worse than to seek out Threads, the début album by Danish trio Virak.

Of course, there’s nothing here to match the vast, glacial movement of “The Tourist” or “No Surprises.” But a song like the seven-minute “Something Strange Happened As We Stood By The Lake” possesses a real sense of unfolding drama with its layered, spacious guitar work and busy drumming; likewise, the slow incremental pulse of “Violence” makes an immediately strong impression. It’s a shame, then, that vocalist, guitarist and lyricist Martin Ejlertsen’s singing voice is so pale and undistinguished, rendering the instrumental tracks on the whole more satisfying than the vocal ones. The lyrics, however, manage to stay just the right side of bombastic. They’re printed as prose in the CD booklet, a nice typographical technique that I’ve also enjoyed on records by artists such as 10,000 Maniacs and Okkervil River. Take this, from “Desert Storm”: “When we rise, we fall to higher hopes than we ever thought possible, like a desert storm, we’re out of reach.”

Virak bear strong comparison, too, with the dusty instrumental post-rock of groups like Scenic and Explosions In The Sky. On the excellent “Song of Everything,” for example, Peter Dyring-Olsen’s furiously precise drumming intensifies the impact of Ejlertsen’s rippling guitar lines. There’s nothing startlingly original about Threads, but it’s still recommended for those who like their rock music dramatic and refreshingly free of bluster.

(originally published in The Sound Projector 17, 2008)

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