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Album Review

For their third album Dry Land, A Whisper in the Noise reunited with Steve Albini, who oversaw the band's 2002 debut album, Through the Ides of March. The trio have come far from those early days, and their sound has changed significantly along the way. This set is all about the acoustics, with Albini creating an album filled with vast, open spaces, chasms of nothingness that are haunted by the darkness very similar in feel to dub. While Albini has placed Dry Land in an acoustic abyss, West Thordson's mix floods its with stunning, enigmatic atmospheres, shadowing the sound with mystery by variously pulling the instruments and his vocals to and from the forefront. But as shadowed as the music sometimes is, and on songs like the mournful "New Dawn," the moody "As We Were," the threatening "Armament," and the tremor filled, trudging "I Will," the shadows are very long indeed, AWITN are less interested in conjuring up gloom, as creating far more nuanced atmospheres. "You, The Orphan," for instance, is positively cheery, breezing along on piano arpeggios and insistent dance fired beats, a classical New Order sort of song. "Awaken to Winter" shimmers in the cold sun, its icy atmosphere hinting at a thaw riding in on Thordson's warm, acoustic guitar. That song is wrapped in an almost acid haze, the majestic "Go Now" is garbed in spacier regalia that occasionally evokes Pink Floyd. On "Now," Thordson's falsetto is used to make the piece soar, on "Dawn" his layered vocals thicken the atmosphere. Hannah Murray's haunting violin adds a melancholy aura to several tracks, while Matt Irwin's drums don't merely set the rhythms but add to the atmospheres, as on "As We Were" where his beats rebound like gunfire. The intricate interplay of Thordson's guitar and piano are integral to several tracks, including the glorious "Beauty's Grace" and the slug-fest "Sons," which dramatically swings between classical piano sections and crashing hard rock passages. On the almost avant-garde "This Time, It's" piano and drums combine to powerful effect. Although the album relies solely on guitars, piano, violin, and drums, the songs are far more experimental in sound than their previous. And regardless of the rich atmospheres, there's a surprising exactitude to the performances and arrangements, no head-nodding jamming here, even across the spaciest numbers. Carefully crafted and delivered, Dry Land is an aural masterpiece.


Formed: Minneapolis, MN

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Influenced by artists ranging from Bob Dylan and Roger Waters to Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt, Minneapolis-based A Whisper in the Noise was formed in 2002 by West Dylan Thordson, who grew up on a large patch of farmland in the rural Minnesota town of Hanska (population 365). As an adult, Thordson moved into the abandoned elementary school he attended as a boy, where he composed in the music room in which he'd played as a child and wandered the empty halls at night. This dark, dramatic sense of loneliness...
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Dry Land, A Whisper in the Noise
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