Wilderness Of Manitoba
Hymns Of Love And Spirits
Thom Yorke may have said, “ambition makes you look pretty ugly,” but he never said it would stop you from sounding really, really pretty. Wilderness of Manitoba’s music is an obvious product of precise and meticulous care, determination and drive. Any time a band is determined to have the sound of birds chirping in the background, that much is a given. But that’s a minor detail that adds to scope of the band’s vision, conjured together with excruciatingly deliberate musicianship and laborious vocal performance. I mean that all in a good way.
Wilderness Of Manitoba’s most blaringly obvious musical relative is Fleet Foxes, as both groups share a love of gorgeous, complex airy harmonies and cavernous reverb. It’s the kind of comparison every reviewer is going to make, like Interpol-Joy Division, Strokes-Velvet Underground, Oasis-Beatles, etc. However, Wilderness of Manitoba’s sound is far more static, meditative, less forward-thrusting, like a slow-motion sunrise translated into music. The melodies don’t so much weave as bloom, slowly and graciously rising. Yes, it is music best described in terms of naturalist romantic poetry.
Lyrically the band apply themselves just as thoroughly as they do in regards to the music, seemingly restricting themselves to only the most weighty themes: life, time, love, death and religion. In the gentle, soaring “Bluebirds”, the band’s various vocalists sing, “And when I’m old and grey/Just let me die this way/You won’t be standing by/Before we fly down.” The near-droning “Dreamcatcher” begins with another smack of emo-folk poetry: “Now the wind blows/Across the floor that keeps us from our/distant goals/I know that you are sick of waiting.” In the whispy, lonely shimmering “Manitoba”, the singer plans on “Driving far/In a broke down car” to meet a lover, I’m guessing in Manitoba.
I suppose the band’s little novelty item of information is that what may be the album’s best song, “Evening”, was written by singer Will Whitwham’s mother Wendy Blackburn in the 60’s. A scrappy recording of the Fairport Convention-esque original closes out the album, but the band’s own version appears right in the middle. While the original is remarkably strong, it clearly sounds dated. The Wilderness’ cover updates it well, decking it out with sweeping minor key harmonies not present in the original, giving it more impact and a kind of haunting quality. There’s likely going to be some reviewer who gushes about how the album sounds timeless and could have been made 100 years ago or something, but the band’s cover and inclusion of the original “Evening” easily displays that folk music, though it has its roots in the past, is still an evolving genre. Wildness of Manitoba’s Hymns… prove the band to be more than fit enough to survive.
The artist of the week this week is a legendary artist with a bit of a tragic story. Like many great artists, his mental illness has plagued his life and caused him and those around him a great deal of suffering, but at the same time, may be part of the source of his musical genius. To some he may seem amateurish and weird, while to others his intimacy and strange, expressive honesty strikes a jarring chord. The artist of the week is…