Much can be said of the underground music scene in Denmark’s Copenhagen. The city features a plethora of young talented men (men in their mid-20’s at the oldest), including everything from Iceage’s raw hardcore and post-punk elements to Lust for Youth’s dark and minimal synthpop tracks, both of which bring in a bit of the old with the new in their frequent releases (mostly on cassette and vinyl). For most listeners, the joys of these records can be limiting on account of the fact that each individual record has a tendency to be too similar to the next, baring a minimal evolution in exchange for what some would say to be more importance placed on the imagery. This statement, however, can be put to the test with this record, No One Dances Quite like my Brothers by Vår (previously known under the moniker of WAR).
No One Dances Quite like my Brothers is Vår’s debut release on Brooklyn’s Sacred Bones Records, and it brings a little something for everybody this time around. Made up of Elias Bender Rønnenfelt (Iceage), Kristian Emdal (Lower), Loke Rahbek (SexDrome) and Lukas Højlund (Pussyfooter), these musicians prove to the world that they’re more than capable of creating music that will do more than give you the standard 2-to-5 minutes of systematic auditory pleasure. Stylistically, the record is all over the place, opening with a sort of militaristic martial / ambient track with epic trumpet cameos (“Begin to Remember”) which flows into “The World Fell”– a track that, simply put, is a breathtaking composition of dark synth that is accompanied by strong (and possibly misanthropic) vocals that hover over it all like a sort of dictator. From there, the record continues to go all over the place with elements of ambient, spoken word, techno, martial, neofolk, noise, cold wave, etc. — a wide combination of genre influences which is, quite frankly, very difficult to accomplish without sounding like a bad mix tape. The tracks flow into one another with fine execution whilst not giving the listening too much of an abrupt surprise in regards to what will be coming next. Another fun (and rare) occurrence which is heard throughout the record’s time-frame is the drastic change of vocal styles. Rahbek and Rønnenfelt lend their vocals to a unique style for each track to give the listener the chance to hear something new; and this isn’t just musically, but vocally with voices that mirror those of Ian Curtis, Tony Wakeford and Steen Jørgensen.
Regarding the lyrical element, one can’t deny the hopelessness of the record. However, amongst the anguish and disparity, there is a hint of salvation which finds itself lingering in the most unexpected places. The emotional weight of the lyrics frequently changes as it puts the listener into one specific mood, such as a sadness that is eventually forced into a state of controlled rage. Examples of this occur in “Begin to Remember” as it flows into “The World Fell,” or “Hair like Feathers” into “Pictures of Today / Victorial”. It’s quite clear that the musicians behind Vår have an agenda when regarding their audience and the stories they wish to tell the world; a very emotional, heart-wrenching one. Despite the obvious sadness and rage (along with the occasional dab of optimism) that this record holds throughout its entirety, No One Dances Quite like my Brothers, in its very essence, screams brotherhood, comradery and the passion for the life that it brings, forcing us all to look around and see who we hold close.
This is one of those albums where, if you don’t like what you’re hearing at first, don’t become hesitant because you’ll be sure to find something later on that will whet your appetite. As a major fan of this record, the only sincere complaint I can make on this modern classic is that there isn’t enough of everything. What I mean by this is that, if you’re taken aback by “The World Fell” and desire to hear more that’s similar to it, you won’t. For many fans, the consensus is that, overall, the album holds a superior standard that beats most contemporary competitors, but the inconsistency of certain styles throughout the record can be disappointing. Besides that, No One Dances Quite like my Brothers is chilling, haunting, brooding, mysterious, and above all, strikingly poetic. If this ends up being the first record for someone new to Copenhagen’s underground scene, I wouldn’t be surprised if it forces the listener to dig deeper for more music of this genre and caliber.
Lastly, as a short list of albums that No One Dances Quite like my Brothers reminds me of, please see Death in June‘s Burial, Sods‘ Under en Sort Sol, Joy Division‘s Unknown Pleasures, Trisomie 21‘s Chapter IV and Royal Family and the Poor‘s Temple of the 13th Tribe.
01) Begin to Remember
02) The World Fell
03) No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers
04) Motionless Duties
05) Hair Like Feathers
06) Pictures Of Today / Victorial
08) Into Distance