Almost a year has passed since the last Forwind release, so it’s a pleasure to welcome the digital label back to the “virtual shelves”. Vardøgr is a fine re-entry, a moody five-part voyage that sets sail softly before drifting into murky waters. The word connotes intuitive foreknowledge, the type of gift that some may call premonition ~ in this case, a premonition of danger, accompanied by the willingness to sail forth. The tiny electronic specks that introduce the album shimmer like sun-speckled sardines; the synthetic whistles in their wake act as underwater ripples. A vibrating crunch becomes the sound of boulders clashing underwater. The ship goes further, the depths grow deeper, and the vessel reaches the point of no return ~ the longitude and latitude at which turning back would be futile, when the only recourse is to set the mast to the storm.
The track titles – “Part One” through “Part Five”- provide the impression that the album is meant to be listened to as a whole. The earlier parts may be quieter than those that follow, but the later pieces gain their strength through contrast. As the album develops, it accumulates a sense of foreboding. A sullen electronic wind gathers throughout the second part, curling around the outskirts of the mix as if waiting to strike. The third – the center of the tempest – begins with a near-piercing tone, a sonic wail that connotes danger. Sonar pings and echoes follow like unanswered radio transmissions. The bass steps from the shadows, knife in hand. In the heart of the storm, a mutiny is about to occur. But does the captain already know?
The murmurings that begin “Part Four” rustle like a cowed crew or birds on the bow. A subtle shift has occurred, from vardøgr to preemptive action. Electronic wind chimes suggest a kinder wind and calmer waters. A subtle churning is still present, but feels like an aftermath. When a single chord arises from the murk, it announces stability, smoother sailing, a crisis averted. Brighter tonal clusters emerge, not yet joyful, but relieved. The closing piece offers an even more stable ship, with floating pieces of melody taking the place of the morass. Nothing evil will arise from these waters – no leviathan without, no leviathan within.
On Vardøgr, Dublin’s Dentistry demonstrates the importance of flow. The story – which may play out differently for each listener – is communicated in clear and commanding fashion. The arc of the album is easy to interpret, but the sounds are mysterious enough to beguile. This trio has done well to exercise restraint, to suggest rather than to show. In using this technique, they imitate the best directors, who create tension without resorting to shock. The ship returns to port stronger, having endured the hardiest of tests, the album strapped to its mast like a prize. (Richard Allen)