Hailing from The Var, specifically Hyères, in France, Viking Dress offers up sophisticated pop. I am not familiar with the biography of the band, but it would not surprise me to find out that The Church and Lush influenced them. I say this because their music is as sophisticated as “Under the Milky Way” by The Church, with its sophisticated interplay between acoustic and electric guitars. While many of the vocal arrangements (not to mention the beauty of the strumming of the guitar) is reminiscent of Lush’s “Spooky” era. So, it may be pop, but there are hints of post-punk and dream pop seeping through the entire EP; however, the music never gives into the dark side of music as much post-punk does, nor is the music ethereal or wispy like much of dream pop. Viking Dress injects a new vitality into the Euro-indie scene, not content with rehash in any way, and ready to wow you away with their sophistication.
So, I came across the “Summarize EP” (20 November 2009) pretty late in the game, but the more I discover the French indie scene, the more I am falling in love with it (it may be time brush up on my French). The references are broader than would be expected from either an American or British act, which usually are nationally insular, occasionally sharing cues with one another. The French, however, are demonstrating cues that not only come from the American, British, or French, but also Australian and continent wide Europe, and this, as Viking Dress demonstrates, leads to vibrantly relevant music.
What follows is something that I rarely do: a track-by-track description of the six songs on the “Summarize EP.” Actually, it may be the first time that I have commented on each and every track of any given release.
“Générique” [“Generic”] is a misnomer for this song; an instrumental carried by the interplay between two rhythm guitars arrangements: the strumming of the acoustic guitar and the arpeggio on an electric. A much deeper lead guitar arrangement intrudes on the serenity of the rhythm guitars, but never dominates it.
“Comme 4” [“Like 4”] is the first track with vocals, in French. Where as “Générique” defers to a wispier dream pop, “Comme 4” is earthier and warmer. Again, the same style of guitar arrangements, but the lead guitar is significantly the more dominating.
“Lalie's Game” is definitely my favorite track on the EP. With a slow building up, starting with guitars only, the beat takes some time to drop and the female vocal arrangements are ambient, in much the same way as keys would be in post-punk. But what really propels the drama of the music is the drum arrangement. Two-thirds through the song, the drum has a consistent roll that accents the visceral power of the song in a more aggressive way.
“Les Pelouses” [“Lawns”] capitalizes on the female vocals. As the guitars jangles through the song, it is the vocals that you keep expecting to hear again… you long to hear again. They are mesmerizing and beautiful in a very dream pop sense.
“Summarize” is the first track in English and first arguably removed from dream pop. Musically, it is the most straightforward song (other than the opening track). The change-ups are subtle, the vocal arrangements as sophisticated as anything before, but what really gets you is how the song borders on becoming “aggressive;” you full well expect the song to explode or implode, but it never does… and that is where the song gains its visceral power.
The EP closes with “So Vain” (again in English), returning to a dream pop feel. In many ways, musically the EP comes full circle, sans the strumming of the acoustic guitar. What I like most about this track is just that it is one of those songs that are best described as a sigh… with a playful edge, the song is the most intricate on the collection, really sticking in all of the previous elements into one song.
2. Comme 4
3. Lalie's Game
4. Les Pelouses
6. So Vain
Keep up with Viking Dress at their MySpace and Facebook.
If you are interested in obtaining a copy to the "Summarize EP," you may purchase directly at this link.
Here is the video for “Lalie’s Game” from the Waterinc Vimeo Channel.