The Wails
Via
2005
B



what do our soft and fleshy human brain-organs associate with wailing? Perhaps the attention-seeking cry of a small child experimenting with a newly discovered form of communication. Or maybe the kind of inhuman noises escaping a larynx embroiled in a close encounter with serious emotional trauma. Even bloodstained decks and burly harpoon-wielding Norwegian sailors, if, for example, you can’t spell. Lame wordplay aside, each aspect is typically persistent and direct—sharing raw sensation or exclamation; demanding they be noticed.

Admittedly, it is mere speculation that the band chose the name on this basis. Whether by accident or design however, the moniker proves prescient as the album’s production creates a sense of immediacy which instantly establishes itself and remains prominent throughout. Caroline Edelen’s vocals are placed high in the mix, whilst the rest of the band create a semi-live sound; an effect most reminiscent of that achieved during BBC radio sessions. This ‘one take’ approach (be it authentic or artificial) serves to enhance the feelings of insistence and nervous tension which are slowly wound and coiled by spindly, sometimes erratic guitar lines. Acting as some form of relief to all this anxiety is a periodically relaxing approach to percussion, the style of which could lazily be described as “Eastern.” Lazily, because rather than being any kind of cultural insight on my part this is merely shorthand for “you know, sounds kind of like that bongo effect you’d expect to accompany badly written existentialist poetry and finger snapping, except, well, with more SPROING.”

Indeed, SPROING, if you’ll forgive the expression and the caps, features quite heavily as an onomatopoeic overtone. “Schadenfreude,” amongst others, follows a particular pattern; after a fair amount of cranking up the pressure the instrumentation suddenly bursts free, running wild in the meadows, tipping over cows and laughing at innocent picnic-goers. Edelen herself contributes, hopping from foot to foot in her mode of address. A soothing, romantic croon can all too suddenly dive-bomb into an unhinged ... well, wail. You could encounter creepy-possessed-girl Caroline (“Highway Pirates”) or cute duet Caroline (“Valentine”), or any of the above in no particular order. The shifts are lively, often unpredictable—and if you’re not enjoying the current climate, the weather will be changing in mere moments anyway.

Let’s dedicate some time to the finest track, though. That would be “Intermission,” a rather bizarre tune that (as its name suggests) bisects the record. It departs almost completely from the wind-and-release style antics that largely precede and, indeed, proceed after it and focuses firmly on the jolly jape of screwing around with your mind. Imagine a classic arthouse film with a wobbly dream sequence (black and white, naturellement) in which clown-faced crows circle blurrily in a cloudless sky and a pot of ink tips over in dramatic slow motion from twelve different angles. This would probably be the soundtrack. The gang’s all here—discordant noises, high-pitched “the killer is coming up the stairs” riffing, unexpected whizzy sounds and through the looking glass tra-la-la-ing. Marvellous.

Secretly I desire an album full of “Intermission,” but I fear that wouldn’t actually work at all well. Plus the added mental strain may shatter the group into so many pieces of strangely coloured glass. The surrounding moody guitar tunes manage to stay the right side of quite interesting—largely due to their inability to sit the same way in a chair for more than a few minutes—and perhaps their presence extends to a higher purpose. They are the nourishing cocoon inside which the central point can grow and shine.


Reviewed by: Peter Parrish
Reviewed on: 2006-04-07
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