When VOLK released their stellar album Cashville, it was like a force of nature that did not hold back. It showcased the different sides of their music, including outlaw country, rockabilly swing, to dancey garage rock. With the rich variations of sounds, their impressive way with words remained constant. Eleot Reich (drums) and Christopher Lowe (guitar) shared vocals throughout the album and created some exceptional moments such as “Welcome to Cashville” and “Old Palestine (TX)”. Since its release, most of their time has been on the road. While doing so, receiving nothing but praise for their headline shows or sharing the bill with legendary bands such as The Dead South, Charley Crockett, Electric Six, and Supersuckers. During this time, they also released some excellent covers of “Jimmy Carter” (by Electric Six) and “I Can’t Dance” (by Genesis).
Being on the road has not only been fun, but it has opened them to new musical ideas. VOLK have always pushed themselves and have been fearless in trying new avenues. After crossing paths with producer John Pedigo (Old 97’s, Joshua Ray Walker, Leon Bridges), they began working on a new EP. It may be only four tracks, but its promises something new from the duo. Recorded at the Modern Electric Sound Recorders studio in Dallas, this short collection of songs promises to “delve into bluesy retro-futuristic dance punk, synth-wave, new wave and nostalgia-filled roller rink bangers”. They have finished cooking, and Stand the Test EP is here for us to enjoy!
The title track, “Stand the Test”, kicks off the EP. The new offering by VOLK delivers a different side to the band. From its opening, you can feel a retro 80s pop vibe. Maybe it has something to do with the guitars by Lowe and the infectious beats by Reich. Or perhaps, it has to do with the guest appearance by two members of Electric Six. These additions help to fill in the soundtrack further with synths (by Christopher Tait) and a cool bassline (by Matt Van). Together, they set the mood that compels you to listen.
Yet again, VOLK continues to walk their own path with their music. ‘Stand the Test’ highlights that they can change their sound at any time and still sound AWESOME when doing so!
As the song progresses, Reich’s vocals join in with the opening lines, “They say stay at home / You won’t always be alone / And I’m trying to remember what I love”. It is the beginning of a story they describe as “a melancholy break-up song”. Even though the topic may involve negative emotions, it feels happy. You can’t help but sing along to the hook, “But we don’t know how long this will last / And I don’t know if I’ll stand the test”, but in a feel-good way. Again, this might have something to do with the upbeat feel of the soundtrack. Even as it reaches its finale, it feels like Reich is breaking free as she powers out the closing lines, “And it don’t matter how long this will last / And it don’t matter if l stand the test”.
Next is the Dubai Bros – Rollerama Remix of Stand the Test. I like how this one begins with a much softer tone than the original. Even more, when the chorus explodes into life, creating a substantial change in mood between the verse and hook. As a bonus, they have woven into the soundtrack more electronic elements. They are used effectively as the song reaches the midway point and its final moments. It may offer something different to the original, but it still sounds as good.
Next comes “I Fed Animals (Remastered)”. As the title shows, it is a revisit to a previous track by the duo. When it appeared on their Cashville album, it captured their energetic rock vibe that was a little rough around the edges (but in the best way). However, this remastered version feels a little less edgy, but its sound has more depth. Also, somehow, it has made these two sounds bigger. Reich’s drumming is moody and intense throughout. Lowe’s guitar is on form too, and when it comes off the leash, it sounds damn sexy! Just hear how good they are during the lines, “Number one, don’t waste your time / Number two, serve what you love / Number three, feed animals / And you can rise above” and just after.
Now to the standout track from this release, “I Fed DarkNESynths (Acid Fader Remix)”. It is a different beast from the others. As soon as it begins with the opening lines, “I fed animals waiting so long for you / One wink to the lion did not know what else to do”, you can hear the difference. Its dark electronic mood gets under your skin and makes you want to move. Even more when you hear the instrumentals after the second delivery of “Baby, I fed animals waiting so long for you”.
As the song continues, those beats become hypnotic, and the synths ensure you can’t escape. You can’t help but become fixated by the soundtrack, making the lyrics invisible. However, there are times when their words jump out at you. The perfect example of this (like the original version) is the delivery of, “Number one, don’t waste your time / Number two, serve what you love / Number three, feed animals / And you can rise above”. It is different to their usual tracks but one that fits them well. It would be great to hear more like this, as this is another example of VOLK at their best.
As the fourth track ends, so does Stand the Test EP. VOLK have delivered another collection of songs that continues to confirm does not belong in a single genre box. But, even though they keep changing the rules, the new style of music still suits them. The question is, ‘Will future music continue with this sound?’. We will find out soon as they have an incoming new album called On the Other Hand, You have Five Fingers. Who knows how it will sound, but as they have previously shown, it will be another unmissable release.