woensdag 22 februari 2017

Happenings And Killings. Joe Volk

Joe Volk, now that is a name for these populist times. If there's one artist that ought to be extremely popular in this day and age just because of his name....

I just found out that Volk is around for quite some time, although this is his first solo effort. He has released six records with the band Crippled Black Phoenix and worked on film scores, TV work, etc. And as far as I know, all that music passed me by. Happenings And Killings hasn't thanks to the good people at Glitterhouse Records. This month the album is a year old. To me it is only a few weeks and I haven't stopped playing it since.

Joe Volk is from Bristol in the U.K., although he lives in Bern, Switzerland, nowadays. People familiar with the Bristol scene of the past circa 15 years will find several familiar names cooperating with Volk on Happenings And Killings. Now I'm not really a triphop fan so you won't catch me cheering loudly for that. I'm cheering the louder for what is going on on this album.

All going on on Happenings And Killings is of a subdued nature. Soft styled guitar playing and just as muted singing is the basis of things Joe Volk. Behind that basis a lot may be going on. Strong drumming, dark synths, more guitars, horns or woodwinds and above all a lot of atmosphere clinging to the sound of the individual instruments. This music has that little extra that the instruments and voice as such do not explain. As if the recording studio is an extra presence.

Promo Photo
This is where the story of Happenings And Killings starts. People who like to truly listen to an album, this is one that is designed to do just that. A singer-songwriter who doesn't need loads of extras to make his songs attractive to listen to. The songs are not bare, but there is not a lot of instruments involved. Things are kept to a minimum of sorts. A few sparse notes on a piano, may be all it takes to make it beautiful.

The name that comes to mind most is Midlake (and behind that always The Moody Blues) and I Am Oak, e.g. in 'The Thief Of Ideals'. Joe Volk is able to conjure up that same dreamy atmosphere where I can submerge myself in. The David Gilmour led Pink Floyd also is a reference. Let me finally name Fink. That ought to be enough references for this fairly unique album.

Promo Photo
The opening song, with a strange title, 'Bampfylde Moore Carew' is an example of how things work on Happenings And Killings. It's just an acoustic guitar I hear, I think, but somehow it's as if other things are leaking in through my walls. The guitar plays a strong repetitive melody, the basis of what's going on. The drums come in, providing a strong backbone to the song, before Joe Volk joins with his soft, dreamy voice. Slowly moody notes are sprinkled over the song, making it a little ominous. "She was fine", Volk sings. So, is she still?, I ask myself. The music seems to say something different. What an extremely beautiful song. Slowly it is sprouting in all sorts of directions, without losing the riff and that drums. That firm basis is never wavered from.

Happenings And Killings keeps up this level of making music easily. It's a soft album, that begs being played louder. That's when the details come out and makes the album come totally alive. There is so much to discover in what seems like a stern and moody album. The sparse, yet strongly noticeable use of electronics and synthesizers, gives the album something extra, accents the subdued, serious mood, sets it in bloom. Even if it is with the dark roses of funerals and decay, in bloom it is.

The moment that all changes is when that fabulously muted guitar part in 'These Feathers Count' kicks in. It comes with a lot of rhythm and Volk sings much more direct. The drums go into double time and a distorted guitar joins as well, making 'These Feathers Count' one of the most direct songs on the album. 'Is Pyramid' is another one. A great rock song amid a sea of tranquillity, at least musically.

With that basically all is told. How an artist that I had never heard of before, who is around as an artist for most of this century, surprised and hooked me to his album. A year late, but better late than never. Joe Volk is in my book alright. Happenings, killings and all.


You can listen to 'Soliloquy' here:


or buy the album at the lable here:


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