VR – Quiet Contest

Quiet Contest

There are certain artists or albums that a person should never listen to while in a depressed frame of mind. The musical offerings I speak of are the type of thing that will only worsen such a situation by bringing you down further. Initially, this may sound like some form of a vague insult, but I assure you, at least in this case, it is not. It is this sort of musical landscape that forces you to reflect, whether it be on the day, the past year, or your entire life. This is not mindless fun, and it is far from angst-ridden aggression, but it resides somewhere far away from all of that, where ambiance, folk, pop, and various other creative forms melt together into one.
But enough of my rambling. Just have a listen to “Ohio,” the instrumental opening track on the latest effort from VR (aka Vehemence Realized) and the above paragraph will make complete sense. Its essence lies in its simplicity, consisting of nothing more than multiple layers of acoustic guitars and a viola, with the end result standing out as achingly beautiful. A similar approach is taken on the lovely “Snow” and “J. Redland,” but with deeper textures created by piano and various guitar effects. Songs like “Lafayette,” “Nevere,” “Aquarium,” “Cardinal,” and “Bast” are slightly more upbeat offerings, but remain downtrodden folk at heart, utilizing the vocals that are shared throughout the album between band members Michael, Oura and Gabe. The pretty voice of Alica Wade offers support on “Lafayette” and “Cardinal,” later taking the lead on “Supervision,” during which she switches back and forth between singing and speaking.
“45 Degrees” is slightly darker and a little less exciting, marred by a tendency to drone until the lovely piano enters a bit too late to save it. “Supervision” and “Aquarium” are the only two songs on the album with any use of drums, which should give you an idea of the sullen vibe the songs emit. As a result, some songs just plod along without any peaks or valleys to mark any sense of progress, and this even goes for those two tracks with percussion. The lengths of the tracks don’t make matters any better, with a handful of the songs overstaying their welcome by several minutes.
It is all quite minimalist and lo-fi, stripped down to the barest essentials and offered up with its heart on its sleeve. Fans of coffeehouse folk will be pleased, as will a handful of mopey shoegazers. Lengthy and unremarkable at its worst, emotional and beautiful at its best, Quiet Contest is filled with gems if you’re willing to do a little digging.