Slow-motion pop-playing duo making beautiful, soundtrack-like atmospherics.
Life has an infinite capacity to surprise us, though some surprises are more welcome than others. When green-haired Finnish pop queen Alma went big, Pete Lambrou and Ciaran Morahan, aka VLMV, had to act quickly. Until then, they had been known as ALMA. Tempting as it might have been to piggyback on Alma’s fame, Lambrou achieved a cunning compromise: invert the lettering and keep the original pronunciation. “At every gig, we still get one person who asks us how we pronounce it,” he laughs wryly.
One of the pleasures of chatting to Lambrou is his ability to bring humour to this situation. VLMV have emerged from the world of post-rock, and as Lambrou reminds us,“The post-rock rule is always four words for a band name, so I wanted to keep it at four letters.
The irony is that it was the one that we had to change.”
If Lambrou and Morahan have post-rock heritage – both have been involved with Codes In The Clouds – VLMV is a different beast. Their second album Stranded, Not Lost draws as much on ambient and classical minimalism as drone guitar. Indeed, Lambrou says,“I don’t think [VLMV] is post-rock at all. We’re ambient-ish post-something.” He pauses, then says: “I think we’re slow-motion pop.”
If that’s a line calculated to panic some prog fans, never fear. ‘Pop’, as Everything Everything have shown, can be every bit as prog as a paradiddle, and the likes of Julianna Barwick have demonstrated the power of slow-motion patience. Every moment of Stranded… is considered and beautiful, with Lambrou’s voice offering a high tenor that slides over strings and keys. “All of it,” he says, “is about being patient, and if you haven’t got that patience, you’re not going to like what we do.”
If VLMV are ‘pop’, they draw on Morahan and Lambrou’s knowledge of progressive alternative rock. Lambrou says, “Prog is all about musicianship and a lot of people might think we just make slow stuff, but there’s a lot of thought and precision. We grew up on The Mars Volta and Radiohead.”
This understanding of music-making plays out in a variety of ways. “On this album,” Lambrou says, “I wanted more orchestra or composer elements.
So, there’s a lot more piano and much less guitar. Instead of layering with a loop station, I wrote a piano piece and then added some strings.”
In short, as Lambrou explains, “I write stuff that is too nice and Morahan comes in and makes it much darker. He likes to play a drum stick on the guitar. He’s always doing something dark and droney.”
One of the striking effects of VLMV is that every song feels like it’s made for a noir-ish film soundtrack. Lambrou admits, “Soundtracks: it’s one of the goals,” and VLMV certainly deserve their chance. The album is enhanced by some guest work from Tom Hodge, who most recently composed the soundtrack for McMafia. It’s a testimony to VLMV’s quality that they can attract the support of musicians with this profile.
The future may well be patient, quiet and beautiful for VLMV. Who knows what surprises lie ahead. But with music of this quality, it will be extraordinary if their audience doesn’t grow significantly. RM
ALL ABOUT MUSICIANSHIP
AND A LOT OF PEOPLE MIGHT THINK WE JUST MAKE SLOW STUFF, BUT THERE’S A LOT OF THOUGHT AND PRECISION.”
VLMV, L-R: PETE LAMBROU, CIARAN MORAHAN.