Peter Wolf Crier Garden of Arms(Jagjaguwar) Buy it from Insound
I’m not exactly certain why heavily reverb-inflected vocals have become an indie rock staple, but it’s quite clearly become the case. Done well, it’s quite nice, but you won’t find much of that here. On Garden of Arms, Peter Wolf Crier seem to have replaced vocal melody with vocal reverb, and it leads to some moments that seem promising initially but quickly fade into that same boring funk (and I don’t mean funk in the literal sense of funk music.)
There are certainly some interesting dynamics at play, but every good moment is tempered by one that just gets to be a bit much. We’re treated to overtly abusive use of stereo sound, repetitive use of bland effects and techniques, and vocals that are drowned out. Take the worst parts and the signature parts of Animal Collective and you’ll be left with Garden of Arms. To be fair, people generally seem to like that, and perhaps I’m showing some sort of true color by dismissing it so readily.
It’s just all so damned noisy, and without any sonic room to absorb the music (strictly metaphorically speaking, mind), it becomes a messy, headache-inducing experience. It seems every instrument in a track is going at it the same time, and the moments intended to be more dynamic feature only louder instrumentation and perhaps a change in style. Really, if that bass line repeats for one more second, this thing may be tossed out a window. Effective repetition is fine and good, but that’s not what’s on display here.
Perhaps it’s an unfair bias, but these little annoyances add up. Too much reverb? Check. Too much needless repetition? Check. Wholly unnecessary sounds of noise that come when you’ve not quite plugged something in all the way? Yes, a check there, too. Really, who thought that was a good idea? I had to check several times to make sure I wasn’t experiencing a problem with my sound. It’s absurd, really.
Garden of Arms is not so bad as to be completely objectionable. There are some nice moments in the mess, and sometimes I’m almost tempted to look past the annoyances before they build up — but sometimes, that’s frankly just not possible.5 September, 2011 - 05:01 — Matt Montgomery