Music

Wilderness: (k)no(w)here

With (K)no(w)here, Wilderness has finally made an album big enough to match the size of its towering parts.


Wilderness

(K)no(w)here

Label: Jagjaguwar
US Release Date: 2008-11-04
UK Release Date: 2008-11-03
Amazon
iTunes

On their first, self-titled album, Baltimore's Wilderness had 10 tracks. Their second, Vessel States, contained only nine. And their new record, (K)no(w)here, features a spartan eight. This movement is not merely a numbers game. It is a trend worth taking a look at, to see where the band has been moving to. The elements of their music haven't changed much. They came out with a sound very much their own and, over the course of four years, have stuck pretty close to that sound.

But it's what they're doing with that sound that is changing, if subtly. The echoing expanse of Wilderness still felt compact, like its swelling sound was pressing against walls. Vessel States stretched out a little more, got bigger, showed a few more holes. But on (K)no(w)here, the band has finally made the big album they've been building towards.

Originally conceived as a musical companion to an installation by visual artist Charles Long, (K)no(w)here is a more or less continuous piece of music. It is separated on the disc into eight parts, but they are movements more than songs. And, more than the band's other discs, the parts work well together. The size of the album finally matches the size of its towering parts.

"High Nero", the album opener, takes its time building. The nearly inaudible hum and drone that starts off the track lasts nearly two minutes before Colin McCann's reverberating guitar offers its gently bending notes. But this song, like most of the album, doesn't come to fruition until the rhythm section comes in. The tom work on the drums, and the light cymbals, doesn't thunder so much as it growls and, along with the low rumble of the bass, keeps the song from leveling out. It is always building until it runs into the next track.

The next movement, "Strand the Test of Time", is most noticeable as a contained song. It has the wide sound of Vessel State, and lets Jason Johnson's terse bark holler into the empty spaces of the track. Later, in tracks like "(P)Ablum", Johnson's voice gets it first chance to bounce off another sound. McCann, for the first time on a Wilderness record, sings backing vocals, and his high keen is a nice counterpart to Johnson's professorial wail. McCann offers a ghostly sound to fill the space between Johnson and the rhythm section.

In fact, through much of the album, McCann's usually overwhelming guitar sound takes a backseat to the drums and vocals. It is an effective shift in emphasis for the band, as they let the true driving force behind these songs, the steady and sharp drumming, take the helm. What McCann does so effectively on these songs is haunt them with his guitar. He still sounds big, but he swirls around these movements instead of filling them in. He also acts as the sinew between the parts of (K)no(w)here, subtly transitioning from, say, the hard notes of "Own Anything" to the trilling pull-offs of "Chinese Whisperers". And he also knows when to step out of the way, as he does for the chillingly bare end of the record, when the drums which carried the album so brilliantly along make the final, fleeting noises of an arresting piece of music.

This album is the sound of a band at the top of its game, knowing its strengths and mixing them to execute a sound as best as they can. Wilderness has never sounded like anyone else, but on (K)no(w)here they sound more confidently like themselves than we've heard them before. There may be fewer parts to their albums as they go along, but with each step the parts get bigger and start to mesh with each other to make something greater. "Cover your head," Johnson and McCann howl and bay at each other as the album ends, and you best heed their warning. This is a commanding sound, a towering sound, and it will fall down on you from a great height. Be ready.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.