Icelandic ethereal pop four piece Vök release their first full length via Vancouver’s Nettwerk Records, home to Passenger, Boxed In and Boy & Bear. Produced by Brett Cox who has worked with Jack Garratt and Tusks, Figure is the follow up to two earlier EPs, 2013’s Tension and 2015’s Circles. Showcasing the technicolour breadth of Vök’s atmospheric sound, it’s reminiscent of the likes of Trentemoller, The xx, Fever Ray and All We Are.
Figure is an allusion to the bands’ many faces, in the same way that the word ‘figure’ can mean so many things; a number, a body, a shadow, a shape. The sounds and emotions throughout the album twist and manipulate in the same way ‘figure’ might reconceptualise itself. Lead singer Margrét, whose diverse vocal wraps itself around you throughout the LP, explains that Figure tackles everything from obsession and death to happiness and hope.
From the frustration and hindrance heard in the driving drums and synths of opener ‘Breaking Bones’; the haunting and throbbing guitars in ‘Floating’, which speaks of being trapped in your own existence and floating without purpose; to the distorted, squelchy bass in ‘Crime’, losing control, being dragged down a path you know isn’t right for you, here Margrét’s vocal reaches to a tone suggestive of FKA Twigs. There are moments of real darkness within Figure, despite the colourful and textured layers of sound.
The neon landscapes of Figure are in direct contrast to the dark which envelopes Iceland for parts of the year. ‘Lightning Form’ addresses the claustrophobic nature of that gloom as Margrét whispers “heavier than ever” on loop, an ode to the winter that feels as though it may never end.
But for each reach into obscurity there are instances of brightness too. Take the indignant and stubborn refusal to back down in Oh Land flavoured ‘Polar’, or closing track ‘Hiding’, which, in its lingering dissonance, emphasises the importance of finding strength in your own vulnerability and allowing it to empower you.
The name Vök is a derivative of the Icelandic word for ‘hole in the ice’. Where this might imply a limited surface value, Figure proves otherwise; it’s a journey into a subterranean rabbit hole of melancholy dream pop.
Buy: Vok – Figure
Live: Bush Hall – 17th May