Johnathan Ford's expansive instrumental landscapes conjure open roads and limitless skylines with its mesh of insistent pulsing rhythms, interlacing guitars, and the swell of Cure-like keyboards. Little Wars is serene but never boring.
The four-note piano figure repeats mesmerically as guitars slash out a series of rising power chords, all complex elements of Unwed Sailor's post-rock sound held in rigorous, particular relation to one another. Little Wars, the band's fifth record, opens with the clarity of clockwork, each note clear and burnished, every point and counterpoint carefully considered. And yet, for all the care and precision involved, there is an inescapable sense of joy here in "Copper Roads", as the volume crests and falls and the various instruments enter and exit the song. Consider Unwed Sailor's songs the ink-and-wash style of music, outlined meticulously, yet brought to life with exuberant blobs of color. Unwed Sailor is what Omaha's Johnathan Ford has been up to since leaving Pedro the Lion and Roadside Monument. Here, in recordings drawn from three sessions stretched over five years time, he brings together longtime collaborators Nic Tse and Matthew Putnam and like-minded fellow travelers Bryce Chambers and James McAllister from Ester Drang to realize his dreamy sonic landscapes. Geometrically precise yet warmly organic, serenely unperturbed but with a bubbling undercurrent of mirth, this is what might happen to post-rock if you put it in a warm corner of the garden and allowed it to grow.