CD-R, MLC, 2005
Vri-il take their name from the life force in Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 19th-century fantasy “The Coming Race”, which also inspired the classic formerly beef-based drink Bovril. I say formerly because, quietly, Unilever have replaced the beef stock in Bovril with yeast extract, thus making their once-unique product essentially indistinguishable from Marmite or Vegemite. Have no fear, however, for Vri-il themselves show no signs of selling out the way their bovine near-namesake has.
Geographically, this trio hails from Bologna, Italy; sonically they come from the same shimmering regions of droned-out post-rock that the Swans inhabited in their latter years and that Godspeed travel through during their more pared-down moments. Despite their origins, I could swear that vocalist Lajlaz is singing in French on “Floe Défi” and “Aquarium”, but through the layers of delay it is hard to be certain. The tail end of “Aquarium” gives the unnerving impression of being inside a very short segment of a Tuxedomoon track, while it is deconstructed and stretched out to great length around you — it’s the sax.
“Hei Hei Hei Hai Hai Hai”, perhaps the least representative track here, experiments with drum machines and a Burroughs-esque repetitive motif (c.f. “Hello, Yes, Hello”), while “Beell” recalls Steve Reich with its interlocking hypnagogic chimes. But it’s the first two tracks, the creepingly sinister “Vril” and “Mun’ner’rei” which impress the most. These two sound the most live and traditionally band-like, suggesting that this is where their real strengths lie.
Having spent a couple of weeks in close orbit around my CD player, I can honestly say this is one of the most striking debuts I’ve encountered in quite some time. My only beef with it (ho, ho) is the production quality. You can hear the cracks and pops at the ends of samples, and occasionally spot an envelope cutting off prematurely. Coil did better than that on “Fairlights” twenty years ago, and in this day and age it’s inexcusable. Were it not for that complaint, I’d have given this lovely album my first 9 out of 10.
— Andrew Clegg