Volk – Boutique Western Swing Compositions EP Review
For years before and after the Wall fell, Berlin has always inspired an affinity and attraction for those drawn to its uniquely both insular and open nature. The sparse bare minimalism and repression of the East side coupled with the artistic expression of the West inspired the barely maintained restraint and violent outbursts of progeny such as Nick Cave and Iggy Pop along with the sleek edgy cool of David Bowie and Kraftwerk, as well as the discordant and disorientating Krautrock scene. Post-The Wall these same feelings and emotions serve to inspire the new generation of Berlin dwellers looking to its past for inspiration in the now. Given its reputation as a hotbed for experimental electronic music and political punk rock, it is not the first city you’d think of for a country-tinged garage rock outfit to make home.
Volk, however, have done just that and have brilliantly applied and incorporated many of the same touchstones as their forebears’ into Western-tinged, desert sun-soaked guitar and drums garage rock. The American duo of lead singer-cum-drummer Eleot and guitarist-cum-backing vocalist Chris stomp and pluck and holler and wail through four tracks of stripped back straight up no frills rock music steeped in the mythological spacious lonely locales of the Old West on new EP Boutique Western Swing Compositions.
The simplicity and sparseness of ‘Simple Western Song”s barely plucked guitar notes wraps and coils tension up and over and round itself before the cathartic sliding in and out of key eruption of a solo, going off like the first shot that begins the shootout. This dial back-let her rip-dial it back again dynamic sets the tone for what’s to come, Volk’s modus operandi. The softly played musics quietly draws you in, almost winding you up and leaving you anxious for what comes next. Eleot’s rising vocals ring out like a clarion call for the battle you know is to come, before Chris ramps it up and smash a bottle over the back of your head with chuggy guitar roars, the drums crashing in and knocking you back.
The often lonely guitar notes reverberate through the cavernous space of the songs, the at times almost nonexistent percussion sounding distant and menacing. These songs are defined more by the negative spaces and echoes of the desert than the not necessarily positive noises of the raucous frontier town. The raw production brings clarity and immediacy to the tracks, ‘Revelator’s Bottleneck’ sliding into view with a twang and roar reminiscent of ‘Black Betty’ before taking itself out the fight to catch its breath quickly before smashing back into the fray.
The music is retro without being regressive, playing with conventions and tones like Tarantino in his own cinematic visions of the West. It is music that sounds like it came from a place way back when but couldn’t have been written any other time but now. As they bow out gracefully with the more melodic, more traditional country lollop of ‘Like A Fool’, the intimacy and invitation into their cinematic musical world becomes complete; you want to see what comes next, over the horizon and into the sunset.