Review: Wreathes (2012) 2


artist: Wreathes
release: Wreathes
format: LP
year of release: 2012
label: Pes­anta Urfolk
dur­a­tion: 32:54

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

I didn’t really need any more con­vin­cing, but Wreathes’ self-titled debut LP proves all the more that Wis­con­sin is a hot­bed of cre­ativ­ity. Nath­aniel Ritter and Troy Schafer have already proven their skill both in styl­istic vari­ation and com­pos­i­tion, but this pro­ject sees them open­ing up a new avenue once more. Though close to their work as Kinit Her, the mater­ial on this album is per­haps more pre­dom­in­antly song-based - per­en­ni­al­ist pop, as they call it them­selves.

And yes, that descriptor hits the right notes. Wreathes sounds a fair bit like a pop record in an altern­ate his­tory where the cards have been shuffled a bit dif­fer­ently. There are songs, verses and chor­uses, but the sound is unlike most things we’ve heard. Per­haps this is the pereni­al­list part - a sort of hid­den but con­tinu­ous line of musical tra­di­tion going back through­out the ages. Though, to be fair, the music sounds mostly like a fant­astic ima­gin­ing of what such music might be like: a thor­oughly sin­gu­lar blend of pop struc­tures, folk, march­ing rhythms, epic vocal har­mon­ies, and rock.

Opener “Odes” is prob­ably my favour­ite track off the album, with its peer­less soar­ing chorus and strong per­cus­sion, and “The Reigns” is def­in­itely in the same league with its layered vocals near the end. But really, all of the mater­ial on this LP breathes the same unique atmo­sphere and style. The melod­ies of each com­pos­i­tion are worked into dif­fer­ent instru­mental lines (organ, bass, gui­tar, violin, trum­pet), giv­ing a rich tapestry of sound to each song, while the vocals (har­mon­ies as well as back­ground voices) are usu­ally most prom­in­ent of all.

The thing is, Wreathes, like a lot of Kinit Her mater­ial, is as weird as it is unique. I’m at a loss to describe exactly what the music sounds like (there­fore a video below). That of an acid folk band surely, but with a mil­it­ary touch, and vocal­ists who sound like they got stuck halfway between being vik­ing raid­ers and the monks they were raid­ing. Let’s not for­get poetry and uni­ver­sal (per­en­ni­al­ist?) spir­itual themes, which are both subtle veins through everything this duo pro­duces. The risk Wreathes are tak­ing is that this sheer weird­ness will ali­en­ate a lot of listen­ers. For me, it depends on the mood: some­times I get it, some­times I don’t, even though I got it the day before. Per­haps such risk is inev­it­able when tread­ing new ground.

Don’t let that put you off: even if it might turn out not to be your thing, give it a listen any­way, or you’ll never know. In any case, Wreathes is one of those essen­tial out­sider steps in the evol­u­tion of music, like many of Ritter and Schafer’s works. If you’re sold, rejoice in the stun­ning LP put together by Pes­anta Urfolk, lim­ited to 500 cop­ies with 133 on an amaz­ing bone-splatter col­our edi­tion. I for one am glad of the unique voices drift­ing across the world from Wis­con­sin, and I’m look­ing for­ward to more Wreathes and Kinit Her works.

[vimeo 20494010]

[Note: this ver­sion of “The Reigns” comes from an earlier 7″ of the same name, and it’s a slightly dif­fer­ent record­ing from the one on this album.]

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Odes (6:08)
2. Bones of Love (5:00)
3. The Reigns (5:10)

4. Speech of the Tides (6:55)
5. The Great Gate (5:11)
6. Blessed Exits (4:30)