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Subtle For Flames

(Little Ramona; US: 5 Sep 2012; UK: 1 Sep 2012)

Carrboro, North Carolina’s Waumiss is tough to pin down in the best way possible. Their latest album, the first full-length since their 2008 eponymous debut, is an album gone jittery with ideas. It’s a tough sound to pin down. These songs are often built on old home recordings—“Farcheinkontrolle” originally dates back to 1996, while songs like “an itch is a pain” and “I stabbed you once with a hundred knives” were first conceived in 1998 and 1999. But this past is merely a well to dig into to form what is a bustling, skittering present.

The album charges in fits from one sound to the other, from the psych-funk murk of “Calling Mary Punch” to the basement-show crunch of “Traditional Squirrel” to the more spaciously gauzy space-pop of “Pass Not Through the Threshold Slowly (I Felt the Impact)”. It’s got electronic elements, but Manx’s Clarque Blomquist, along with his wife Caroline and third member Charlie Hearon, is no good at adhering to genre conventions. This is as restless and exciting as pop music gets, as playful as it is heartfelt, as expansive and experimental as it is solidly built. This is a mosaic of sounds, with the seams between pieces on full display. The real success in Subtle For Flames, the real trick Waumiss pulls off, is convincing us even the gaps are part of a cohesive whole.


Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.

Waumiss - Pass Not Through the Threshold Slowly (I Felt the Impact)
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