Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Album Review - Very Very Small Inclusions - Dispersions

Dominated by a brooding twin-peaked ridge, a small house sits uncomfortably right of centre, and a low-lying rainbow crosses overhead.  The image chosen by the Glasgow-based duo Very Very Small Inclusions (VVSI) for their debut release, Dispersions,  is striking but painfully bleak and is fresh in the mind of the listener as the album opens with modern plainsong. 

Stuttered Silence  is cryptic, dark and slow-paced.  The harmonies are on point and crisp.  The sobering lyrics "lives left bare and cold" and "fresh out of the womb, straight into the tomb" set an early marker that VVSI are not reluctant to touch on darker themes.  Winter Solstice  follows and is equally measured.  Birdsong  acts as the backdrop to a four-four driven bass line and guitar melody that gradually build-up to the verse.  Claps and reverberations are added before the echoing vocal harmonies take emphasis once again.  Two standout moments on this track include a subtle dropped beat halfway through the second verse and the rolling drum fills embedded into the main rhythm. AΔB  serves as one of the album’s highlights.  The changes in key and melody shortly after the two minute mark are stunning and the reverse tape-looping (a recurring technique never over-employed), muted bass, tapping woodclaps and vocal outro are unorthodox and refreshing.

The ticking of a grandfather clock and crackling logs introduce the counterpoint and retro-pop-sounding Fire Fire.  A syncopated punchy rhythm and bass guitar riff act as a lead-in and the accented vocals, not overdubbed and positioned low in the mix, are slightly and deliberately out of synch.  The bass drum is heavier on this track.  Another album high point follows in the form of Cyclonic.  Brass and heavy drum production predominate in this track and the vocals get louder and more urgent as the track progresses.  Degraded  is more indulgent and boasts traditional rock guitar and drum rhythms, which play in a loop.  The open analogue radio samples add a further dimension.

Accelerato heartbeating opens On The Ceiling  and the dark and muffled vocal harmonies are accompanied by an analogue synth. The interspersed polyphony and shoegaze-inspired guitar lend a subtle hint to the listener on the group’s influences.  This track is a real treat for button-pushing technicians as VVSI combine low filters, complex melodies and changing rhythms to dramatic effect.  Sun Shards  is a heavy bass mix which borrows elements from the Detroit and Club House scenes as well as from the all-but-extinct genre, trance (the background bleeping melody is reminiscent of the Russian group PPK).  The vocals work well with the music and the acoustic drum fill halfway is comparable to the French nu-disco duo, Cassius.  Rain Rain  follows and is more melodic.  The drums are the highlight on this track – the heavy tom-toms are complimented by sliding and tapping drum sticks.  The sounds are pure and acoustic and the vocals are airy, background and compliment the strings and nature samples.  The change in key in the track’s latter half (similar to AΔB) serves as a nice link within the album and is noteworthy.

N!  is the final track and a hidden highlight.  The machine-inspired reverse melody is very reminiscent of the early work of dubstep pioneer Shackleton.  This comparison is fully justified by the dark bell effects that surface a third of the way into the song, and then later in a more demonic and rhythmic form.  The vocals are heavily altered and a strong house beat ensues.  The outro builds into a crescendo of guitar, vocals and drums.  The album is then complete.

Dispersions  is not perfect, but it was never meant to be.  Drawing on a broad range of influences, the cross-genre feel and re-examination of certain past-sounds are definitely strong points.  The line "forward’s not the only way", sung on the second track Winter Solstice,  is fitting in this respect.

The themes that surface throughout the album’s length are many and the listener is drawn into opposing worlds of introspection and warmth.  The contrast is deliberate and mirrors the image of the rainbow against the backdrop of the darkened sky.  Rainbows are nature’s visual consequence of science, the product of light rays refracting into water droplets.  The rays reflects internally before refracting out, creating that all so familiar array of colour.  VVSI look inwards throughout and the ideas and sounds that emerge are equally bold and unassuming.

- Andrew Kidd

Very Very Small Inclusions - Dispersions  is out now and is available here.

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