Wilsen look to the tranquil balm of the night to create a unique and graceful post-folk album.
It can be all too easy to get swept up by the push and pull of everyday life. The whirlwind of the morning commute. The frantic dash from one appointment to the next. The interruptions, distractions, and diversions that take up so much of our daily lives. Occasionally, you just need to find that all-important window of calm. A moment to take a step back and appreciate the tranquility of inaction. However, If you live in a city like New York these brief moments of serenity are usually only available at night. A time when those in the rat race have scurried off for the night leaving only the relative calm of twilight. This is the situation in which Tasmin Wilson, the voice behind spectral folk band Wilsen, found herself in. Only during the gloaming could she finally find the stillness to reflect on her day and to shape her hopes and anxieties into songs.
I Go Missing In My Sleep is the band’s first full-length album after the release of the double EP Sirens and 2014’s ,Magnolia EP. Both of those releases captured a group steadily uncovering how to sound like a band when the central feature was the wispy, achingly delicate vocals of Tamsin Wilson. Thankfully, this is the album that sees the band strike gold as they manage to reconcile their post-rock and graceful folk sides to craft a beautifully balanced album. It is an album full of understated instrumentation with subtle crackles of drums, astute electronic flourishes, all underpinned by the suppressed rumble of Drew Arndt’s basslines.
Opener “Centipede”, based on Wilson’s encounter with a centipede in her apartment during one of her aforementioned, late-night ruminations serves as the perfect template for the album as a whole. Full, finger-picked guitar notes echo, breaking the silence and calm of night, before Wilson announces herself, not with egocentric bluster but with a deliberate whisper. Her vocals acting like the warm breath that fogs up a cold mirror before being wiped away by the sensuous and delicate instrumentation. The song effortlessly builds as they gradually tease the sound out to fill every nook and cranny of the room. The bursts of percussion allow the song to flare like bursts of light in the darkness. “Garden” is backed by a rolling, Radiohead style bass line and ringing guitar notes. As on the rest of the album, the acoustic and electric guitars are used sparingly to add warmth and fullness to the songs while the subtle whoosh of electronics means they are never allowed to settle. This undercurrent of tension is especially pronounced on “Kitsilano” which has a driving chiming, acoustic opening a little like Radiohead’s “A Jigsaw Falling Into Place”. The gleaming echoing electric guitar notes are overlaid on top of handclaps and clipped spoken voice samples.
Contrary to the name, “Heavy Steps” is a wispy, gauzy number. The dreamy vocals are again supplemented by elegantly plucked folk guitar and dashes of piano. The subject matter, like the song, feels a little out of reach and opaque. This is a constant on the album with the songs coming across as achingly enigmatic but, thankfully, never aloof. It helps that many of the songs are free of emotional context. There is no overarching thread of a dissolving relationship or of painful heartbreak. Rather the ambiguity of the subject matter is all the more poignant and affecting. Lines like “We’re all faking something” from “Centipede” and “Did the dark swallow you” from “Otto” may suggest melancholy but never seem to be addressed at a specific character. Rather their meaning is left tantalizingly unexplained making them easy to apply to one’s own experiences and situations.
Understandably, this does feel like a late night album but, while contemplative, never comes across as overbearingly somber. On “Dusk” Wilson sounds like she is in collusion with the dark as she looks to it for relief. It is one of the catchiest songs on here that highlights Wilson’s ear for an undulating vocal melody. All of the songs benefit from the band’s ability to augment the natural pairing of Wilson’s voice and finger-picked guitar with sophisticated embellishments. “A Parting” builds to a simple electric guitar riff and features sporadic bursts of percussion. “Emperor” again features subtle electronics but accents the mood with subtly used rim clicks, hi-hat, and occasional cymbal splashes. While “Final” features rolling finger picked guitars with the occasional sound of whistling.
This is a slow, winding album designed to slowly envelope your senses over time. The undoubted keystone to the whole album is Tamsin Wilson’s voice. At times her voice is little more than a soft sigh, and even when it grows in strength, it feels like it might fracture under the weight of the emotion that coats every word. Every whispered syllable is worth more than ten bellowed words. Initially, the spartan arrangements may not lend themselves to the immediate pleasures of incessant hooks and melodies, but this belies the fact that this is an album to be gently unpicked with every subtle nuance dissected for meaning. A twilight escape from the unrelenting rush of everyday living.