Monday, May 23, 2011

Was I the Wave? - Miracle Fortress

Was I the Wave?

Miracle Fortress
Secret City Records.

SCQ Rating: 88%

It was an especially rainy day in Montreal when Was I the Wave? hit store shelves, although I doubt Graham Van Pelt felt a drop of it. The Montreal-via-Stratford musician is known for his reclusive ways – preferring to hide out in hotel-room corners, writing songs – but one can only assume that many of these new songs were written with just such drizzly weather in mind. His follow-up to 2007’s Polaris nominated Five Roses literally soaks in Miracle Fortress’ new electro-pop affinity, where percolating bass lines and synthesizers generate a powerful whirlpool of tight hooks and liquid-slick production.

Even by the close of two-minute opener ‘Awe’, which establishes Van Pelt’s electronic palette with a stationary coolness, there’s no denying Was I the Wave?’s “departure record” status. Indie-rock fans – particularly those who loved his debut – might call that first instrumental a non-track but they’ve a rather wearisome road ahead of them; Miracle Fortress features no less than four of these experiments in sound, all of them weightless and warped in nature. Fragmented though they may be, their inclusion on record ties a shimmering ribbon over Van Pelt’s transformation as a songwriter while, yes, quieting a release which, when disassembled, behaves more like an EP.

Of course, these amorphous instrumentals are mere seedlings that made expansive main-events like ‘Raw Spectacle’ possible. That single’s emotionally engorged chorus and elastic-snapping beats erupt over the record’s synth foundation like a mountain rising up from the surf. Van Pelt pulls that switch-up repeatedly, placing miniscule segues and towering songs next to one another. Giving these massive electro-pop concoctions some linear pull is Van Pelt’s sequencing, which devises a gradual thaw from Was I the Wave?’s cool beginnings to its comparatively cozy finish. These opposing temperatures offset each other without either half getting an inferiority complex; somehow the forbidding, tundra-like synth-layers of ‘Tracers’ remain just as catchy and enveloping as the breezier guitar-anchored ‘Everything Works’ of the latter half.

Van Pelt has already promised that Miracle Fortress will insist on exploring new sonic paths in order to survive, meaning that his electro-pop interests may already be subsiding. Even so, I suppose it says something about Was I the Wave?’s playability that I’m completely fine with that. In less than forty minutes, Miracle Fortress has laid down an all-encompassing landmark of adventurous and sleek songwriting. In this case, no sequel is necessary.

Miracle Fortress - Raw Spectacle by Le parallèle

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