Many of the year’s best post-rock albums have been so subtle they border on ambience. Stranded, Not Lost is the latest of these, marking the premiere appearance of VLMV, formerly ALMA, comprised of alumni from Codes in the Clouds (one of whom also appeared in Monsters Build Mean Robots). Perhaps more than any recent band, they wear a Sigur Rós influence on their sleeves, while the vocals ~ appearing on five of the ten tracks ~ may also remind some of Sleeping At Last.
For once, the vocals don’t distract. A hushed falsetto is a valuable weapon, especially when backed by piano and strings (to which the duo, through a trio of guests, adds more piano and strings). We wouldn’t be surprised to see “If Only I” slip onto the U.K. charts after the huge boost of a Clash magazine premiere. The lugubrious track sways from confession to metaphor, lamenting “the storm that sank our ship.” This is music of regret, but also of strength: the strength to go on.
But for us it’s all about the instrumentals, of which there are many, including the opener, two closers and two finest tracks. The first of these, “Among My Quietest Fears,” uses the space between notes to create a sense of isolation. When the silences begin to fill, the heart begins to fill as well. And then there is “And There Was Peace In Our Hearts for All The Dark Things That Surrounded Us,” a track title so long it took an entire traffic light to scroll through my car dashboard. Just to see that title brings back fond memories of the time in which every post-rock song seemed a short story, and we thought the supply would never run dry. This particular track is based on a repeating piano melody that is visited by angelic cello and violin, eventually finding itself changed by the encounter.
It’s been interesting to read the reviews of the album coming from the “other” side ~ the blogs and magazines that concentrate on the vocal aspects of music. We finally decided to chime in because it seemed the instrumental side of VLMV had been underrepresented. Very few artists can do a 50/50 blend so effectively. Stranded, Not Lost is nearly a concept album; while not every wave has a boat, their absence frees us to concentrate on the beauty of the waves. (Richard Allen)