V.O. "Obstacles" (Folkwit, 2010)
Quiet time with Belgium folk avante garde-ists
Belgium’s V.O. (short for Version Originale) is the brainchild of one Boris Gronemberger, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has been busying himself of late contributing to other peoples records. ‘Obstacles’ sees the realisation of his own free-flowing leisurely vision.
V.O take a faintly abstract approach to their overall sound and their song structures. At the core is wistful acoustic guitar and Gronemberger’s gentle, fragile croon. ‘Obstacles’ is split between vocal tracks where melodies and harmonies meander in search of direction, and ambient instrumental pieces, which, in the case of ‘The Date’ seem inspired by the second half of Bowie’s ‘Low’, crossed with glimmers of Radiohead’s electronic explorations. Like much on the album, it is part way between calm intimate acoustic ambience and delicate simmering tension, gentle discord and electronic interference.
The record begins at a lethargic pace, which it never quite breaks from. ‘Constant Changes’ is intriguing with its vague resemblance to an opiated Fleet Foxes struggling with avant-garde jazz chords and changes. ‘Those Things In The Box’ is an experimental tease with its repetition and rhythmic false-starts amidst its acoustic ambience. The harmony, sleepy brass and building strain of ‘Sample Song’ is a highlight of V.O.’s ethereal aesthetic, and the polyrhythmic ‘Unterbergbahn’ has traces of Portishead’s attractive unease about it.
‘Obstacles’ purposefully strays from the obvious and is most certainly for the patient and open minded. Despite ‘Green Snow’s Elliot Smith inflections and more evident straight-ahead charms the lovelorn closer ‘Be With Me’, the world of V.O is far more mysterious and indefinite, and ‘Obstacles’ exists as more of an intriguing slow mood piece than a collection of anything approaching conventional songs. Welcome to their delicate world.
Date review added: Sunday, September 12, 2010
Reviewer: Ian Fildes
Related web link: V.O's myspace