CD Review: VR Trainers
If sparseness is what you’re looking for, look away. “Image,” the sixth VR Trainers release since 2010 is dense, frenetically so. Describing VR Trainers as an electronic project would be simplifying things a bit. Though programmed drums and throbbing synths are a common thread that runs through “Image,” guitar playing with heavy power-pop sensibilities is just as important to the group’s sound. The EP is extremely accessible and has crossover appeal.
The opener, “N Vwls,” in addition to poking fun at the gimmicky trends of CMJ darlings like taking removing all of the vowels from your band’s name, is a prime example of the denseness that marks the rest of the EP. It’s not as though there are thousands of layers to “Image,” but the percussion, with a touch of applied distortion, is huge and heavy. And if it isn’t the percussion, it’s the synths. On “Be Still My Beating Drum,” the lead synth dwarfs the guitar. “Image” feels like a sibling rivalry between synthetic and acoustic instruments. The guitar and unprocessed, vulnerable vocals are in a constant war over territory with the harsh edge of the synths and percussion. It’s compelling.
The real takeaway cut from the EP is the closer, “The Pacific Theater.” It opens with the sound of a guitar being plugged in. Then starts a rousing, wistful anthem that would fit in on any of New Order’s later albums. It’s evocative of the feeling you get when you catch the first glimpse of a large city from the freeway. You’re driving under the cover of darkness. It’s raining. Real life isn’t far off. You’re anonymous. “The movie is starting/The film has no title.” Nobody knows who you are yet, but things are going to work out.
– Nick Thacker