On their third full-length, the members of Baltimore’s Wilderness have delivered on their name’s promise yet again. Forget the shimmering Inner Harbor and look more toward industrial wasteland surrounding a city: abandoned train yards, derelict warehouses, or just rolling emptiness stretching past the horizon. More than just an album, (K)no(w)here is a dynamic symphony. Rather than simply songs, the tracks are movements in a larger piece, seamlessly flowing into and over each other.
James Johnson’s odd vocal stylings are our signposts. He doesn't sing so much as hurl his yelped lines from the depths of his belly. The music is equal parts Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division, Christie Front Drive and otherworldliness. Angular drums, squalling guitars and thick bass hem in Johnson’s words while also tossing them back up into the ether. Wilderness is the soundtrack of the aurora borealis.
The meat of the album, "(P)ablum," "Silver Gene" and "Own Anything," open as a sort of lament, with Johnson’s voice counterpointed by Colin McCann’s eerie, cold wails, all wrapped up in a blanket of warm guitars rolling over the broken glass of the jagged drums. Then "Silver Gene" swells up out of the depths, a perfect segue, perfect coda, like light cutting through a dark night, bringing hope and a lighter heart. Then "Own Anything" explodes, rallying the emotions hinted at in the earlier tracks into a triumphant spin. Like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and its sister band A Silver Mt. Zion, Wilderness has the ability to turn despair into beauty, to make hope a valid response to chaos.
(K)no(w)here is also a study in space. The guitars come at you from all angles, drums bubble up and clatter like a perfect assembly line, the vocals soar or are flung in from behind. Melodies sneak up and poke you like stray branches. Grab your headphones and start wandering.
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