VAR (Iceland) - ‘Live at Orgelsmidjan’ (EP)
One album I did miss last year was the appropriately titled ‘The Never-Ending Year’ by Icelandic band VAR, whom we did give some coverage to when they released their album ‘Vetur’ In 2017. The album was released back in April, so how they exactly knew it was going to be a never ending year I’m not sure, but it’s an album that’s well worth checking out in hindsight – blissful melodic post rock, with expansive guitars and some inevitable ‘walls of sound’. I think ‘Run’ is probably my favourite track.
Their Spotify profile provides an entertaining description of how they see themselves: “Think Sigur Ros with more urgency, We Were Promised Jetpacks with more intricacy, and Frightened Rabbit with more grit.” It’s a little tongue in cheek of course, but I definitely see how they’ve come to that conclusion, and a good mix too given I am a huge admirer of all those bands – as well as being able to offer a great deal on jetpacks obviously.
Anyway in the absence of live dates, the band decided to release an EP featuring live performances of the album from the studio. As Júlíus from the band explains: “We felt like we had to do something to give people at least a little taste of us playing these songs live. VAR has always been about playing live, and we always give everything we have to make the tension between us and the audience both peaceful and powerful.”
And that’s exactly what they achieve. The sound they create in the live version is pretty astonishing, it’s not ‘better’ or ‘worse’, just subtly different, you can hear the energy of the band in ‘Where to Find You’, particularly maybe a little extra in the drums, whilst in the atmospheric ‘Highlands’ there is just a hint of emotion in the vocals. ‘By the Ocean’ is particularly impressive, just for the quality of vocals, whilst the sound of the guitar throughout is just spellbinding.
They’re definitely on the list of bands I have to see live when this is over.