August 23, 2004


I don’t know why, but from the minute I saw KVLR’s name and took one look at the cover of this bad boy, I knew this band had to be from Sweden. Maybe it was the pale Exorcist-lookin’ girl on the cover? The decidedly minimalist aesthetic, perhaps? I cracked open the cover…and lo and behold: I was right! KVLR apparently hail from Umeå, the same Swedish town as Neo-Marxist hardcore deconstructionists Refused and their far more commercially viable offspring, the (International) Noise Conspiracy. I can’t exactly pinpoint what sort of artistic or cultural sensibility would cause me to automatically associate KVLR with a country best known for offering some of the best healthcare available anywhere in the world (as well as for producing the Ikea corporation and record numbers of busty blondes), but I guess it’s that certain je ne sais quois that propels KVLR’s self-titled 4th LP to some pretty compelling places.

Another assumption I made before I actually put the record on was that KVLR probably sounded like a noisier, more unhinged version of Norwegian hardcore darlings JR Ewing. Boy, I couldn’t have possibly been more wrong- instead of inducing some dark, metallic variety of tough guy hardcore, KVLR write nice, unpretentious, mildly noisy pop songs. In other words, the group seems more concerned with writing some decent melodies than with conquering the world or scaring your children.

Throughout the album’s 10 tracks, the group often comes across as a more contained version of Chapel Hill angular rock stalwarts the Archers Of Loaf (particularly lead singer Johan Sellman, whose world-weary voice occasionally bears a striking resemblance to that of AOL’s mouthpiece Eric Bachmann), especially on “Slow Clapping” and “Road Closure“. While we’re here talking comparisons, the 10-minute epic “What’s Left Belongs To No One“ kind of reminded me of Pedro The Lion.

If there’s one major problem I have with KVLR’s record, it’s the lack of any sort of dynamics- every song kind of shares the same tone, follows similar chord changes, and chugs along the same rhythm patterns. Thankfully the album’s a fairly scant 42 minutes and by the time you’ve noticed, it’s three-quarters of the way over. And though I know KVLR has to capacity to keep its pace varied- songs run the gamut from raging (“Spit”) to contemplative (“Whitewash”) and everywhere in between (the truly exceptional “Traitors and Thieves”)- I would have certainly liked to have seen a bit more deviation from those similar tones, chords, and rhythms. But I suppose if it’s capriciousness I was after, I probably came to the wrong place.

Although the term conjures up images of pot-bellied, pony-tailed record executives slamming fists on mahogany conference room desks, ‘the bottom line’ is KVLR seem to have found a sound of their own, they’ve crafted a respectable set of songs, and never once do they sound even remotely uncomfortable shifting around in their own shoes. KVLR have the rare knack for writing songs that stick with the listener long after the record’s tucked away in its white, minimalist packaging. Check ‘em out for yourself.

--Jonathan Pfeffer

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