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The Brilliant Narrative Machinations of Pictoria Vark- "The Parts I Dread" Review

Written by Brandon George

There’s little to be said about Iowa City singer-songwriter and bassist Victoria Park that hasn’t already been said far more articulately than I’m capable. Having played bass for Squirrel Flower and Pinkshift, continually championed label-mates and fellow musicians tearing through the DIY scene, and released a self-titled EP under the name Pictoria Vark, she has continually established herself as a positive force for musicians and music-lovers alike.

Come April of 2022, she released her debut full-length album, “The Parts I Dread,” a half hour long exercise in exorcism of anxiety, trauma, and the necessity of forward motion.

In our reviews of “I Can’t Bike” and “Wyoming,” we already talked about the ways Park crafts songs as a simple frame that blooms with specificity and subtlety. The album enforces that to delicious degree, “Twin Song” a stripped down soundscape, “Bloodline II’s” cheeky guitar solo and swells, “Out’s” echoing string noise and explosive finale.

All of the arranging work here serves not only to develop a holistic sound, but to reflect Park’s narrative philosophy.

There’s a moment in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech in which he remembers realizing his own narrative style by listening to Tom Waits’ “Ruby Arms.” Ishiguro says, “there comes a moment, midway through the song, when the singer tells us that his heart is breaking. The moment is almost unbearably moving because of the tension between the sentiment itself and the huge resistance that's obviously been overcome to declare it.” There is an Ishigurian ploy at work in “The Parts I Dread.”

Each song provides brief glances and snippets of sights and sounds of the nostalgic and painful until the breaking point.

“Twin Song” is three and a half minutes of ethereally crafted guitar swells and slowly fading synths around Park and her bass spinning the tale of an imaginary twin. It tells of that bond from birth to rebellious solidarity, to the love of music, to the inevitable moment at which the relationship suddenly is a wraith of itself, closing on the words, “I wait for you to disappear.”

“Good For” laments the realization that things aren’t the same as they were and solidifies a painful sense of solitude before it allows one brief moment of collective anguish in the group shout of , “there’s nothing deep to say,” and then closing with a final, lonely utterance, “what am I good for? / was it wrong for you to know? /why am I here for?”

“Out” spends its verses crafting moody microfiction, the act of pacing a room, the act of cutting one’s own hair, the sight of a dead bird on the ground. All of it is building narrative tension for Park to then shatter it explosively with sincerity, screaming “I wanted out, this fucking house,” over and over again as the drums peak and a guitar swirls.

It’s the Chekov’s gun of emotional devastation. The jaunt through the bucolic is the powder keg that ignites into the interiority of Park’s experiences.

It’s the kind of enviable musical storytelling that shines a spotlight on the strides the DIY scene is making right now and causes excitement about what’s to come next and only gets better with each subsequent listen.

Pictoria Vark’s “The Parts I Dread” is available now wherever music is streamed and you can order the physical record on Bandcamp and follow Vark on Twitter @pictoriavark. Let us know what you thought of this album @lgndsoftmrw.

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