Posts Tagged ‘Wand’

Wand

Wand’s alchemical change from fuzz punks into purveyors of mercurial indie prog is complete as they slide into their fifth album, Laughing Matter. Opening with the icy, Radiohead-esque pulse of “Scarecrow,” they seem to tip their hand, giving listeners a feeling of what to expect. However, they prove harder to pin down as the album progresses. The record hooks its claws into shades of shoegaze one minute, turning the fog-machine blur to a tumultuous ten, with Corey Hanson’s vocals climbing out of the mix in high, lonesome wails. The next, they’re picking out a loping folk intro, creaking the porch slabs in the background and thrumming on soft, purple twilight glows. They continue to weave through style swaps over the album’s hefty tracklist – sinewy here, angular there, riding a rollercoaster of thick muscular riffs buried in redline fuzz with ease on more than one occasion. Yet, where that might sound like a band struggling with identity, Laughing Matter proves that the band’s only just found their way between the cracks of genre to embrace a more ambitious persona.

Hearkening back to late ‘90s / early aughts budget bumps on alternative types, the record allows itself to embrace a bigness and grandiosity that’s been whittled down a bit in the wake indie’s genre drilldown tendencies. Sure, there are still a few who cast a wide net without totally sliding into the banal end of the pop pool (say: Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Temples), but Laughing Matter is the band’s swipe at something that might fit in with outsized psych at the centennial click-over that reverberated through records by Serena Maneesh, Secret Machines, Soundtrack of Our Lives, The Earlies, and yes, Radiohead.

It’s a record that makes space for silence and coiled anticipation. While it could have perhaps been whittled some, there’s a certain respect in becoming the biggest version of yourself possible. Fans of any of the touchstones mentioned should find something to savor on Wand’s new direction, and holdover Wand fans won’t find themselves disappointed. This feels like a natural progression from where they were on Plum. Last year’s stop-gap Perfume felt like, just that, a distraction rather than a move forward. This is that big leap the band promised, as long as you’ve got a good hour ten to strap in, the band’s ready to unleash their magnum opus.



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Wand – “Thin Air”

A second slip behind the curtain of Wand’s upcoming opus Laughing Matter lands today. “Thin Air” is a bit burlier than first single, “Scarecrow,” but it too is toeing into the skeletal indie prog left scattered by Radiohead, Mogwai and Godspeed around the turn of the millennium. Starting with the last album the band turned a corner from their garage moorings to push towards more ambitious rock pursuits with an eye towards stadium-sized epochs. However, the band is working decidedly in terms of alchemy rather than retread, picking sense memories from each of those sources and working them into something sinewy and barbed all at once. The track trickles in, only to roll into a ball of feedback by the second half – drawing the needle of their sound through shoegaze shimmers and psych bluster. Both of these pieces point to a bigger, leaner, and headier album from the band than before. I’m eager to see how these lock together and whether they can make the new album’s double length work in their favor or pose a challenge.





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Wand – “Scarecrow”

Wand continue their reinvention from fuzz-chomping psych freaks to art rock acolytes with the announcement of their latest Drag City LP. In the austere, Between Two Ferns lookin’ video for the song, the band channels the brittle, air-conditioned unease of Mogwai, Muse, and, more specifically, Radiohead. They pushed towards reflections of ’90s guitar heroes on their previous album and they appear to be making their transition into the early aughts this time around. They’ve stripped away the ’90s grunge signifiers, trading their old STP CDS in for an angular agenda that tills Wire, Magazine and The Comsat Angels into stadium-sized sizzle. It’ll be interesting to see how the massive looking new LP works out as they’ve already got their sights set on a bigger profile with this offering. Laughing Matter is out April 19th.

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RSTB Best of 2017

So this year is drawing to a close, or almost, we’re still a few weeks away from pushing the broken pieces of 2017 into the trash. There’s no real solace from a lot of the events that took place this year, but, independent of any current events, music has been kind to us all this year. These are the records that spent the most time on the turntable over here. Yeah, I know its kind of a lot, but there were far too many good ones that haven’t been getting the shouts they need elsewhere. Lets say this serves as both a best of and a most overlooked in one go. If you enjoy ’em, buy ’em if you can. Don’t do them the disservice of just bumping up the streaming numbers.

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Wand

Wand has been a fixture here for some time, and while quite a few other sources have noted that the band’s sound has dramatically changed on this record, they seem to be forgetting that Wand’s sound is constantly changing. While the most apparent reason for the shift would be the shuffling of members and a slide to a more democratic writing policy, Hanson alone wasn’t one to sit idle in his riffage cranking out the same tune time and again. With that in mind, Plum is a move towards a broader audience, but one that’s bridging their psychedelic past with an ever more malleable future.

1000 Days and Golem sat at opposite ends of the see-saw, with the overt heaviness of Golem pulling equal weight with the surprising shift to psych-folk that found its way wriggling into the DNA of the follow-up. Now the band shows an open love of the ’90s vision of psych as a component of large-scale alt-rock. When grunge was king, the weirdos often snuck in under the wire. As long as a chunky enough riff went crackling through the airwaves, the rest of an album could indulge with impunity. It’s in that tradition that Plum finds itself looking to Trojan Horse their own twisted wires among the references to Radiohead, STP, The Beta Band and Afghan Whigs.

They work this though in the fizzing guitar work on “White Cat” and the country pine of “The Trap”, but even the more apparent pop ballyhoos have their Easter eggs of the Wand of old – fuzz breakdowns, the singed-edge dream vocals of Hanson, a debt to ’70s prog rock time changes and a preponderance of found sound interjections that break up the band’s gravy-coated offerings to a more hesitant listener. In that way the album is much more subversive in bringing a new generation into the fold. It’s their most polished, but also often their most potent work. In opening the band up to communal collaboration they’ve cut ties with their L.A. fuzz-pummeling past while doing that which all reviews are claiming to look for in a band: they’ve grown.




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Wand’s Cory Hanson on Miles Davis – Get Up With It

There have been many bands that I’ve seen evolve here at RSTB, and with varying results, for sure. Wand’s evolution from fuzzbomb psych stewards to their current incarnation as archivists of alternative’s more ambitious corners is a journey that’s been exciting to experience from a listener’s vantage. I’d had a missed connection with the band’s Cory Hanson when he ventured into psych-folk for a solo endeavor last year on Drag City, but this time around the fates have aligned to get in a Gems feature on the verge of the release of their fourth album, Plum. For the uninitiated, Hidden Gems explores an album that the artist finds underrepresented in the canon of popular culture – the kind that falls through the cracks and deserves a shining light. Here Cory Hanson explores Miles Davis’ 1974 double album Get Up With It, explaining how it came into his life and how it’s had an effect on his own songwriting.

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Wand – “Bee Karma”

Second cut off of Wand’s upcoming LP pulls them even further from their fuzzbomb psych roots, diving hard into the ’90s end of the pool. With a stadium-shaker riff opening up “Bee Karma,” the band alternates between guitar crush and soft-alt, bordering on psych, but never toeing into the kind of haze they’ve enjoyed in the past. This, more than anything feels like a mark of Wand looking to widen their audience and shake the shackles of their Ty-indebted past. It’s working, though. While there’s a lot of ’90s grunge nostalgia bandying about these days, something about their unabashed melting of tentpole faves – the tender delivery of Thom Yorke, the gnarled STP licks, the larger than life bombast of Afghan Whigs – makes this all the more ballsy for the heart on it’s sleeve. The clip, goes in for a weird, sad clown car ride and another glitching bird makes a corner cameo.

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Wand – “Plum”

Wand’s last album, 1000 Days opened up their fuzz-psych to broader territory, digging themselves out of the shadow of the roster of bands they’d been opening for (Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Moon Duo) and letting them carve out their own path through psychedelia. That album trended towards a ’70s psych-folk that was continued, refined and shot through with a dose of melancholy on Cory Hanson’s solo album last year. Now the band adds two new members, Robbie Cody (guitar) and Sofia Arreguin (keyboards, vocals), giving their sound a wider screen than ever and tacking into a new wind on their latest album. The title track from the upcoming Plum culls from a later brand of psych-pop, streaking their psych stylings with nods to ’90s heroes, while keeping their experimental core solid.

The song crushes cacophony under the boot of melody in a way that hasn’t worked so well since The Beta Band were running wild. Hanson and his expanded outfit tumble over one another to each get their instrumental line to the top of the heap and the result is dizzying and shambolic with his vocals adding a nice touch of bittersweet bite to the track. With so many bands going back to the well that feeds them time and again, its nice to see Wand continue to grow and explore new directions on each new album. Can’t wait for the rest of Plum to seal the deal.



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Meatbodies

So just to get it out of the way, yeah it’s obvious that Chad Ubovich, Charles Mootheart, Ty Segall and Cory Hanson have at one time or another borrowed from each other’s record collections. There are a lot of the same influences at work here, and while the lazy review could write Meatbodies off as just a carbon copy of any of the others, Ubovich has built an impressive tower of psychedelic pop in his own right on Alice. What he’s really excelled at is finding a way to seamlessly intertwine the best hallmarks of any ’70s guitar freak’s record shelf. There’s the Bolan warble bumping into Syd Barrett’s own tremolo madness, neither affectation overtaking the other completely in a dance of madness. The band builds matchstick temples to Sabbath and burn them down with the glee of bubblegum glam. They know that Bowie and The Sweet both wanted to make you bop and treat them on equal footing, no hero hierarchy here, egalitarian aesthetics copped to the core.

In an age when it’s possible to completely saturate yourself in an almost overwhelming amount of musical output, it’s impressive to see someone take his obsessions and lacquer them together into a monster of an album that doesn’t whiplash between styles like a giddy kid in a candy store. Stacking LEGO® pulled from your best bins can muddle more than it can shine, but the band builds a solid psych foundation that keeps me coming back time and again for another dose of cotton thick clouds of fuzz. Ubovich, along with West Coast studio backbone Eric Bauer shellac this sucker into its shiny fanged form. They indulge (heavily) in the effects of their forefathers, but let them color strategically out of the lines in hypnotic shapes rather than make a splotchy mess.

There’s an overarching theme here of “war, sex, politics and religion,” but to be fair that covers a lot of ground and while the lyrics stick Alice together some, it’s more of an album about feel and tone, time and space. It’s the past skinned, sliced, packaged and shuffled into an order that feels natural. It’s the countless hours of a music junkie made material and fed through a Big Muff for good measure. If that’s not enough for you, then door’s on the right, be sure to hit the black light your way out and let the rest of us fuzz out grinnin.’



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Cory Hanson

Wand showed a portion of their soft underbelly on their last LP, 1000 Days. They still employed the growl of explosive guitar but sketched out more texture, filling the sound space with plenty of new shades and shadows. Swooning strings and buzzing keys smashed into walls of echo. They flirted with psych-folk but still sat pretty solidly in the fuzz-psych camp they’d been born out of. Its clear, though, that the band’s Cory Hanson had a big part in that textural shift, and that he had more in him. Taking a solo departure from his bandmates, Hanson strips the sound all the way back and sets the incense aglow for a wander into psych-folk proper, though a strain that leans in on the orchestral cues he’d seem to favor previously. Those strings are brought to life by Heather Lockie, who has previously played with Spiritualized, Eels, Sparkelhorse and Love. Her arrangements take what could be just a folk diversion and push it into a lovely bit of bittersweet pop.

The tone on The Unborn Capitalist In Limbo is wistful at its lightest and downright mournful for the majority of the record. Hanson draws from a wealth of folk artists that found their muse in the rain splashed territory between heartbreak and utter depression. There are touches of Roy Harper, Bill Fay, Nick Drake, Donovan (at his most wistful) and even Al Stewart in the batch of songs that Hanson has put together and he’s working towards the kind of gutwrench with a shiny wrapper that those artists excelled at putting together. Whether this side of Hanson remains dominant, ekes its way further into Wand or stands as a single album impulse remains to be seen. But in embracing the sweep of sadness, he’s left a document of heartfelt ennui that shakes off saccharine for a lasting impression of sighed resolve that helps to lessen the lump in your throat.



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