- San Diego, California - Note: this album is not free; however, the band uses Bandcamp for their music sales in addition to the normal channels, so you can listen to the album in its entirety for free before deciding whether to purchase it. You can check it out and buy it if you like it at their Bandcamp page.
The EP Wanderer, O Wanderer by Come Wind seeks to combine illustrative, analytical lyrics with tumultuous rhythms and harmonic movements, much akin to the currently-dormant group Edison Glass. As an ardent fan of Edison Glass’ Time Is Fiction, I was quite excited to listen to Come Wind’s album when it was forwarded to me by the band’s drummer in response to my review of So Long Forgotten’s Things We Can See and Things We Cannot. While I was somewhat disappointed by poor production decisions and overly-perfect execution in the album, I was heartened by the creative and technical talent that showed through, and would recommend it for fans of driven, yet intelligent rock-and-roll.
The biggest thing that detracted from this album actually had nothing to do with the songs or players themselves. The way in which the album was processed and mixed places focus on one instrument: the drums. This focus on the drums does make the album “pop out” more initially, it makes the clarity and strength of the other parts suffer, and (at least to the reviewer) starts to get grating after a while when listening through headphones with a good-quality high-end response. Below are two songs side-by-side, one from Wanderer, O Wanderer titled, “Midas,” and one by Edison Glass titled, “The Jig Is Up.” Listen to the first eight seconds or so. Which one seems to “pop out” more?
Now, listen to both songs in their entirety, listening specifically “for” the vocals. Which song’s vocals sound more assertive? Which song do you find yourself wanting to listen to again? Throughout the album, I found the strength of the drums interfering with the clarity and strength of the other instruments, especially the vocals. When I listen very closely, I can hear quite a stellar vocal performance, but the focus on the drums robs it of much of its power in the mix.
The other quality that disarms Wanderer, O Wanderer is the perfect timing of the rhythm instruments. Why is that a problem? The subgenre that Come Wind plays is what I’m going to call “hard emo rock” for lack of an exact name (lest you consider that a slight, I consider myself part of that subgenre as well). One of the primary “goals” of this style of music is to bring listeners out of their comfort zones with slight dissonance and rhythmic inconsistencies and then inspire them to action with alternations of driving power choruses and slow contemplative sections. In musical terms, this translates to dissonant intervals, a combinations of non-harmonic leads, and a driving, almost nervous beat. In non-musical terms, this means that the music is meant to alternate between surging, almost out-of-control expressions of turmoil and slower sections of analysis and renewal. A critical part of creating that out-of-control feeling is actually in making the tempo or speed of the drums, guitar, and bass surge, release, and at times fight with each other. I know that sounds incredibly odd and counter-intuitive as a legitimate musical concept, so let us once again turn to an example.
Listen to the aforementioned, “The Jig Is Up,” again linked below and specifically between 1:05 and 1:24. Compare this “Not Enough” from Wanderer, O Wanderer, 1:07 through 1:35. Both have shouting/screaming and similar compositional drive, but “The Jig Is Up” feels more down-right agitated than “Not Enough.” Why is this? A major factor is the (lack of) consistent timing in and between the rhythm instruments in “The Jig Is Up” verses the perfect timing of the rhythm instruments in “Not Enough.” If you listen specifically for the guitars and drum, ignoring the vocals completely, you may notice in “The Jig is Up” that the guitars seem to “drag” while the drums seem to “push” and the drum rhythm is not always consistent, especially in the tom fills. In “Not Enough,” the drums and guitars are both perfectly on time; this perfection partially results in the section feeling unhurried or even sterile. Artfully choosing sections in which the instruments seem to fight each other for tempo and do not keep perfect time is quality that greatly empowers sense of turmoil that is typical of the genre.
In spite of these issues, Wanderer O Wanderer is still a compositionally intriguing album that could lead to some great releases in the future. In terms of composition and ingenuity, the songs on this EP are quite impressive and dynamic, and the band has fully displayed its technical competence in performing it, even if that performance was a little too perfect. The lyrical quality of the album is incredibly refreshing as well; the songs are accessible while also allowing listeners to dig for deeper meaning. For these reasons, I would highly recommend following and supporting the band—I’m glad that I purchased this album, as I believe that my investment will be well-spent in future releases.
In the end, musical innovation is far more important than production or emotional execution. Though technicalities of recording, mixing, and mastering can help or hinder the power of music, they cannot create that power; the creativity and talent of the musicians must do that. Because of this, I cannot wait to hear another record from Come Wind, though I have my fingers crossed that the producer behind it is equipped and experienced enough to harness the band’s creative power makes it a truly singular record.
Rating: 3/5 Sour Grapes