Friday 10 June 2011

Wonder Bear - Avalanche

Bear's necessity is the mother of invention!

'I am ready for something a little strange - I'm just not the same'

Now that kids is how to encapsulate your music with one simple flow of the pen! The line in question comes from 'Reverend', the second track on the debut album from Wonder Bear, and it's the ideal summation of a record whose creativity will baffle and bemuse some as much as it will compel and charm others.

Over the course of 8 tracks spanning a mere 25 minutes, the New Yorkers have crafted a record that displays a great level of imagination and ingenuity; something that’s all the more impressive given that the two primary contributors are still only 17 years old.

This inventiveness means that classification of ‘Avalanche’ isn’t an easy task. Broadly speaking it’s a lo-fi electronic record, with elements of trip-hop and dub integrated, but those limited labels do it a disservice because where the record really excels is in its ambience and imagery.

The title track is a prime example. Vocalist Daisy Korpics sings softly to herself amidst a collection of rainforest noises and flowing rivers (think a more sedate take on The Stone Roses, 'Breaking into Heaven’ intro) before at the end the water gushes to the fore, creating the impression of pulling the singer under. Kachina Peak is just as evocative; it opens with children’s squeals accompanied by a series of mournful piano notes, before the main body of the track kicks in, underpinned by what seems to be the sound of a burning wooden structure –  its somehow manages to be both eerie and yet harmonious.

In fact that contradiction is prevalent throughout the album. Often Korpics appears lost in her own world, singing serenely, oblivious to the threatening soundscapes Ben Klein is creating all around her. This is certainly the case on the albums penultimate track, and stand out moment, ‘VO79’ on which Korpics sings virtually A cappella, accompanied only by the echo of her own vocal and a dark rumble in the background; Its menacing beauty is the perfect mood setter for closing track ‘Hunsiker’s Bowl’, which frankly is downright creepy; A half wound, children's music box stutters through ‘Over The Rainbow’ against a back drop of a whistling wind and a variety of haunting noises – chilling does do not it justice.

Understandably, because of it's experimental nature, this record will not find favour with everyone. For some the tempo will be too slow, others will find the vibe too oppressive or spaced-out. There are no conventional songs here or an obvious pattern or structure. It is however a progressive album and one that deserves praise not only for what it offers presently, but also what it promises for the future. To come up with something challenging at such a young age is a real achievement and one that Wonder Bear can be proud of.

Given their low profile this is a record that is unlikely to receive widespread acclaim, but one day in the future Klein and Korpics may be able to look back on this as the snowflake that set their avalanche in motion.

Download 'Avalanche' for free from the Absent Fever Label bandcamp page here

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