I’m not sure how many times we’ve seen Vök live over the years. Four? Five? It’s something like that. The first time was in April 2013 right after they’d won Músíktilraunir, Iceland’s annual Battle Of The Bands. They seemed so young and shy on stage at Faktorý, but even then you could tell their sound was special. It’s been fun watching them evolve into confident performers, particularly vocalist Margrét Rán who is able to walk that magical fine line between self-assurance and vulnerability.
In The Dark is Vök’s second full-length release, coming on the heels of 2017s Figure and a pair of earlier EPs, Circles and Tension. It finds the band very polished, every song near-perfect in composition and production. Rán’s voice tends to stay in a lower register, husky and breathless, injecting a human element onto the primarily electronic musical canvas. If anything In The Dark feels like a more toward a more adult contemporary space. While that genre is oft-maligned and usually reserved to imply something less-than-favorable, those criticisms miss the point, the point that there is plenty of room for enjoyable music in that space. These songs can find a home on the dance floor, but also in your car stereo when you’re out and about making life happen. “No Direction” is my favorite track, one that breaks free a bit from the overall sound of In The Dark, its wave-like synths and Rán extending herself into a higher range making it a refreshing mid-point to the album.
Holly and I were fortunate enough to see Vök perform live way back in April, 2014, a few months before their five-song EP Tension was released. It was the last show we ever saw at Reykjavik’s Faktorý, with Vök opening for Prins Póló and FM Belfast. And not to toot our own horns, but we both remember being quite impressed by the then duo; little did we know what great things were ahead of them.
We ended up with their 2015 EP Circles on CD, so while I was tempted to buy it on vinyl I didn’t have to resist too hard since I have a “rule” against buying something on vinyl if I already have it on another format. That is until we showed up at the “record show” (and I use those words together VERY loosely in this case…) at Nordic House the weekend of Airwaves, and I found that one table was selling nothing but sealed copies of Tension and Circles at only 2.000 ISK (about $17.50) apiece. I couldn’t pass them up at that price. Sometimes a bargain is too good.
Sonically Tension is less dense than Circle, but the the overall vibe is similar and Margrét Rán’s voice remains incredible, one of the best kept secrets in music today. The songs are Tension are a mix of English and Icelandic, which is a change in pace from their more current material which is strictly in English. While this record doesn’t have a song on it as good as “Waterfall,” truth be told most albums ever recorded don’t include a song that good, so that’s hardly a criticism. Look, you need to check them out, so go HERE and listen to what they’ve got on offer. You won’t regret it.