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New Universe

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Album Review

If Mudhoney could name an album Superfuzz Bigmuff, Desolation Wilderness should feel entitled to title one of their discs Echoplex; guitarists Nicholas Zwart and Andrew Dorsett have a healthy enthusiasm for the space and texture of a good analog delay, and while their second album, New Universe, doesn't drown their guitars in the stuff, the cool, organic feel of vintage echo and reverb go a long way toward defining their musical approach. The songs on New Universe are a little bit dream pop and a little bit shoegaze, with a dash of indie rock on the side; if you're looking for melodies you'll whistle after the album is over, this is not the place to find them, but the musicians generate an atmosphere full-bodied enough to wade through, like a stream on a summer evening. Desolation Wilderness are not what one would call a chops-intensive outfit, but the arrangements on New Universe are admirably intelligent, with the guitars subtly bouncing different parts of the music against one another while the bass and drums patiently urge the tunes onward. When the pieces slide together on songs like "Strange Cool Girl," "Moon Dreams," "San Francisco 2 AM" and "You Hold a Power Over Me," the effect is striking and quietly beautiful. The relatively peppy numbers, such as "Slow Fade" and "Venice Beach," suggest this band could develop a hookier persona if they were of a mind, and even when this music is at its most languid, it has enough purpose to keep it from becoming aural wallpaper; there's a fine line between ambient and subtly compelling, and Desolation Wilderness fall on the latter side of that divide on New Universe.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Olympia, WA's Desolation Wilderness borrows cues from dreamy electro-pop and uses a loose analog recording method -- aided in no small degree by a Roland Space Echo, two Maestro Echoplex delay units, and several spring reverbs -- to create a narcotic, dusty take on the style. The concept was conceived in 2005 as a solo project of Nicolas Zwart, who started recording vocal and guitar tracks while he was still a senior at Olympia's liberal arts school, Evergreen College. His first album, the narcotic...
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New Universe, Desolation Wilderness
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