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Wilderness - (K)no(w)here (Jagjaguwar)

11 November 2008

Wilderness continues to not repeat itself. This Baltimore band’s third album, written for the Whitney Biennial, moves at a very deliberate pace while merging art rock, drone, stoner beats, and post-punk textures in a style that’s practically avant-garde. Despite being divided into eight tracks, there are no breaks; it’s one long composition (41 minutes) built around timbres.

The most notable timbres are guitarist Colin McCann’s brilliantly chiming tones, but there are also the artfully placed notes of bassist Brian Gossman and even the song-speech Lydonisms of vocalist James Johnson (stentorian recitative; tremulous singing of limited range and grating intensity), who really does function like an instrument. Drummer William Goode gets to choose between pounding away with the slow yet inexorable energy of a tank, or merging his timbres with the musical surroundings.

When the surface of the music offers such compelling sounds, the simplest figures – say, the alternation of two sparse chords – can be a hook. Nobody else has reimagined the basics of rock so drastically or so well in a long time.