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Album Review

Over the course of Wilderness' career, each album has been a darker entity than the last. Even more downtrodden and more languorous than Vessel States, (k)no(w)here downshifts gears again with half-time drum thumps, longer stretches of time between picked guitar notes, and increasingly simplified basslines. Written for a visual art performance at 2008's Whitney Biennial and conceived as one long, winding musical piece, it's almost as if the band shared a bottle of extra strength cough medicine before this session in order to slow the pace of songs like "(P)ablum" down to such a deliberate crawl. Purple syrup would also explain the trippy vibe of the record, just as it would explain James Johnson's deeply resonant and meandering singing style this time around. Critics were quick to compare his eccentric vocals to David Byrne or John Lydon on the tinnier and post-punkier Wilderness debut, but the strangest thing about his throaty, subhuman attack here is not that he sounds more like a cross between Ian Mckaye and Cher, or that he slurs to the point where trying to pick out his lyrics is like trying to interpret the Swedish Chef, it's that his sluggish, yowling lines are some of his most cathartic ever. He waivers every note with authority, while the rest of the Wilderness (bassist Brian Gossman, drummer William Goode, and guitarist Colin McCann) lull as soothingly as a very loudly amplified band can. It's the exploration of a similar template as their last albums — Edge-type guitar runs enhanced by delay pedals, hard flicked bass chords, and rattling tom fills — but this time, it's more spaciously spread and dragged through quicksand. An ambitious exercise of restraint, it's a lumbering beast that's minimal but still feels expansive. Epic, even.


Formed: 1995 in Baltimore, MD

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

James Johnson, Brian Gossman, Will Goode, and Colin McCann create the experimental/post-punk sounds of Wilderness. Hailing from Baltimore, Wilderness formed in 1995. Their self-titled debut album, recorded in spring 2004 with Chad Clark (Dismemberment Plan, Q and Not U) and TJ Lipple (Blue Velvet, Aloha), was issued on Jagjaguwar in July 2005. Vessel States...
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(K)No(W)Here, Wilderness
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