One trait that I do enjoy coming from newer progressive albums lately is its laid back, dreamy soundscapes. Incorporating techniques mastered by the likes of Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, and The Who, numerous bands attempt to emulate their heroes as effigies on a podium. With all the different progressive albums I’ve heard especially in the past year, I can say that some of them succeed in expanding upon that sound, while others do nothing more than copy/paste, replicating a skill already captured years ago. Luckily, the band Vly has perfected upon this sonic experience with the release of their first album “I / (Time).”
Being a follower of The Laser’s Edge Records via email, I was notified when their album was released, at the time a band I had never heard of. Residing in three different countries, Vly are a collection of strangers-turned-bandmates, originally started as a group of musicians sending demos to each other through the Internet. Consisting of Keith Gladysz on vocals, Karl Demata on guitar/synth, Elisa Montaldo on keyboards/synth, Chris Heilmann on bass guitar, and Mattias Olsson on drums, this quintet has created an interesting addition to the progressive rock genre, leaning on folk, pop, and electronic inspirations throughout the album. Gentler and easier on the ears, the listener will be able to close their eyes and relax as they listen to “I / (Time).”
Reminding me of a combination of The Secret Machines, Pink Floyd, and North Atlantic Oscillation, this sixty minute album is one of the most approachable progressive rock albums I’ve heard in some time. Vly are able to use all the traditional arrangements that are stereotypically “progressive” while including a modern spin of electronic, indie, and folky vibes. The album opens with one of its strongest songs, “Circles.” With its clean, wavy guitar rhythm and classic keyboard sound, the intro and verse are smooth and elegant, representing the indie nature of the entire album. I especially love the use of slide guitar and deep bass lines in the passionate chorus that permeates into the solo-filled bridge section. Later in the album, “Headache” introduces more electronic sounds, orchestral instruments, and the standup bass, while employing more sound effects over the guitars. It’s one of the simpler tracks on the album, but nonetheless very enjoyable. The track “Dark Days” starts off with a folksy, slightly distorted guitar arrangement, which slowly incorporates acoustic guitars and other miscellaneous percussion instruments that remind me of being in the woods. These three songs are an interesting collection of the different types of genres around the world, all combined into one album.
Even with the incorporation of newer, lighter styles of music, “I / (Time)” still contains some great rock-out moments. Two of my favorites off this album are “Out of the Maze” and “Message in Water,” being the two heaviest tracks on the album. The slower introduction to “Out of the Maze” is only a trick, as the listener experiences the fullness of the song by minute one. The combination of hollow, overdriven guitars hitting minor notes, tom-heavy drum beats, and eerie vocals in the song’s beginning reach its climax in the chorus, which further adds an Opeth-sounding keyboard arrangement following the lead guitar. With a different tempo, “Message in Water” starts with a bluesier sounding guitar and that same keyboard sound, only to drop off by the song’s verse. The spacey bridge section reminds me of something the Beatles would’ve made had they been starting off today, and the solo to close off the song is simple but matches the tone set throughout the song. Although not as hard, I do enjoy the emotional vocal delivery of Gladysz in the song’s chorus, and is one of my favorite moments on the entire album.
I honestly don’t have a complaint about Vly’s “I / (Time).” To think this band is a result of an international collaborate effort, I commend the skill and quality that went into this album. It is a great introductory album for those curious in exploring the unchartered waters of progressive rock. For those of you who are fans of Steven Wilson, Pink Floyd, Anathema, Riverside, and other softer versions of prog rock, I’d recommend giving this album a listen. Please support Vly by checking out their website, and by following them on Facebook and Twitter for band updates.