Vlor – Six Winged

vlor-six-winged

Vlor - Six Winged

Vlor appears to have evolved more than once over the preceding 17 years. Beginning in 1992 as a conventional band,  re-assembling as a duo in the late 90s,  and following on from 2006’s reissue of that bands Sacred Places In The City Vlor has expanded into an online musicians collective, with Silber CEO and head Vlorist Brian John Mitchell rounding up as many label colleagues as he can find to contribute to the 16 tracks on what is the second full Vlor album.

What’s in a name then? Any similarity between the 1992 Vlor and the 12 -strong ensemble working under that name today is probably tenuous at best, isn’t it? Given the Silber label’s propensity to explore the polar escarpments of post-rock, crossing the territories of ambience, prog and space rock as they do so, you might expect Six Winged to consolidate these approaches and it does, in a sustained display of cohesive and occasionally spectacular skill, but with a dozen contributing musicians randomly interpreting 16 seperate tracks, there are several surprises contained within silber075.

What I think anyone hearing Six Winged will appreciate most is the consistent track quality. This type of recording – sending backing tracks to musicians who record without actually meeting – is an easier system to manage now than it was at the beginning of the decade but the idea still seems a time consuming one, and with a wider scope for error than a conventional band set-up. But had Brian John Mitchell kept quiet about the studio techniques used here and credited the album to a quartet, none of us would have been any the wiser. All the tracks began as Mitchell compositions and they share a common thread : the trademark Vlor sound is a ponderously throbbing bassline capable of reaching near mesmeric intensities and is the sound that characterises much of what makes up the first half of the album and a sizeable portion of the second.  If you like your frequencies low, there’s much on Six Winged to keep you happy.

And added to Mitchell’s guitar parts are a bewildering array of voices and other instruments. First track “I Have Left Home” is an actual album highlight, its picked guitar and breathless, phased female vocal backed with agently insistent keyboard establishes the mood : simultaneously sombre, elegaic and celebratory. “Without Blame” and “Guided” take us properly into Vlors orbit with their grinding basslines repetitively enmeshed guitar electronics, with “Guided” especially referencing the chaotic atonality of My Bloody Valentine, perhaps a key influence on Vlor although there are unquestionably numerous others. “Never To Be Rebuilt” has Vlor doing something that not every band that attempts it can really make work, and that is making guitar sounds like synths, utilising the instruments own vibrating frequencies to build rhythmic patterns. “Tolerate The Wicked” and later tracks are exercises in sustained ambiences, but the mood of the album is suddenly torn up by “Watch Me Bleed”, an psyched-out insectoid rockabilly duet that is a twisted invocation of anger and desire that recalls the Magnetic Fields at their most frenetic.

What is obvious here is that Six Winged still isn’t quite the album that Vlor want to make. The number of musicians involved and recording methods create their own tensions and discordancies, and it is left to Brian John Mitchell to hold everything together, a process which brings yet more energies and collisions into the frame.  Anyone already familiar with the Silber label will appreciate Six Winged greatly, and anyone else might wonder where they heard Vlor previously. This album exists at the forefront of post-rock experimentalism today.