Vandaveer is the project of Mark Charles Hedinger, a singer and multi-instrumentalist. Influenced by his long family history and a love for folk, his music is expansive, sparse, minimalist, and challenging to listen to. While it doesn’t always work at its full potential, his vision is nonetheless inspiring, and the music on Divide & Conquer is an impressive narrative of love and loss.
Tinges of gospel and religious fervor are what sets Vandaveer apart from many other neo-folk projects. Many of his songs feature a wavering gospel choir hovering just in the background, behind the instruments, and it works to fantastic effect. An example can be found on the thrilling “Fistful Of Swoon,” where Hedinger and vocalist Rose Guerin duel in a slow motion revenge anthem that’s equal parts creepy and sexy. Occasionally, like on the overlong “The Sound & The Fury,” the music is too sparse for its own good, and it crosses from being intriguing to simply weird. But throughout the album, Hedinger demonstrated a maturity that’s beyond his years. “When you dance with the devil, you don’t waltz for free,” he sings on “Turpentine,” and his wavering tenor is so mournful, you almost believe him.
Divide & Conquer is solidly constructed and well-realized folk. It’s simultaneously sweeping and intimate, and it has a richness that lends itself well to repeated listenings. It’s not as consistent as it could be, and its length is its biggest weakness, as it wanders and loses focus occasionally. But, like a good book, there’s a satisfying conclusion on Divide & Conquer for whoever is dedicated to finding it.