Music Reviews

Wilderness (K)no(W)here

(Jagjaguwar) Rating - 5/10

“See see/What what/You you…as we are the evidence.”

It’s not until Chinese Whisperers pulls itself from its rut of an intro that (K)no(W)here begins to sound like an album, or at least like a collection of cohesive and composed pieces of rock music, thick undercurrents of bass rhythm magically appearing as guitarist Colin McCann’s repetitious array of amplified swipes at dead air learn form and squeal under a heightened and confident tempo.  Up until this point, art-rock quartet Wilderness, seem content to compile arced wisps of dissonant guitar noise over mostly sedate backdrops that exist simply to crawl along unnoticed.  Strange that five songs pass before (K)no(W)here decides to go (S)om(E)where

An eight-song semi-suite of sorts, (K)no(W)here is a heavy handed and seemingly unfinished attempt at conceptualization.  Its “art” belies the band’s lack of conceptual chops with a gross amount of self-importance and leaves vocalist James Johnson with the task of having to liven things up, caterwauling like an inebriated Peter Murphy.  The band themselves come off as a half-assed Dischord acquisition, melancholic and impassioned numbers like High Nero and (P)Ablum exhibiting a propensity for minimalist, post-hardcore broken rock notes.

Signs of life are found with the pseudo-realized Strand The Test Of Time and Silver Gene, both of which bookend the drawn out (P)Ablum, sounding like time changes as opposed to separate pieces of music.  As (K)no(W)here is constructed like an eight-part medley, its songs, for the most part, don’t stand individually. I credit Wilderness with crafting an album that only makes sense when taken as a fully considered whole.  But, as the aforementioned Chinese Whisperers energizes (K)no(W)here’s otherwise uniform tedium, the first five tracks wind up forgettable, coming off as unnecessary build-up.

Following with Soft Cage, a less maniacal Pop Group combination of steady bass thickness and cautious guitar noise, Wilderness come up with a thoroughly engaging mix of urgency followed by steady syncopated drum/bass coupling.  McCann’s love of discordant melody makes the most sense here, dancing over the unswerving rhythm section.  It's the album’s best moment.

Overwrought sorrow comes back for the closing track <...^...>, but the energy established by the two preceding songs is maintained.  Johnson and McCann spend a lot of the song yelping over one another in a series of slurred and somewhat indecipherable reiterations of “Cover your head,” the album’s conclusive statement.

Realizing the potential of (K)no(W)here, it’s almost worse that Wilderness got it half right.  With ambition and expectation clearly larger than its execution, (K)no(W)here relies too heavily on its “concept” to drive itself, music being its afterthought and, ultimately, its title only communicates its direction.