Wilderness Survival
Pisces Son Heir He’s Rising
Catch Camera
2006
B+



there's a compromise any indie person like me takes with humility and salesmanship,” Nick Grosvenor, one-half of Wilderness Survival (the other is Shane Reed), San Diego’s favorite cult indie band who don’t play the songs on their albums at gigs, said to me in an email earlier this year. I’d said in a previous email to him that pointedly alternative artists sending lo-fi CDRs in anonymous card slipcases received short shrift, tacitly implying to the recipient that the artist doesn’t care enough about his or her work to present it properly. I don’t necessarily mean professionally or slickly—just with care. Nick had told me he was proud of the album, Wilderness Survival’s second, and that it was “really creative and original.” I said that wasn’t enough.

The thing is that it probably is enough, or should be—in fact, “really creative and original” is two parts of three towards perfect. But, to be honest, there’s so much music available right now (the “infinite tail” of minor-interests) that sifting the pan for gold is more of a task than ever before, and it’s very easy as a music writer to be lulled in by the trendy, the controversial, the glitzy and the high profile in order to be seen to have relevant opinions, when really we ought to be flagging up what interests and moves us on a personal level, explaining why along the way so that other people can be interested and moved too.

While Wilderness Survival’s first album, Stereo Types and Types of Stereos, jammed together indie rock, jazz, hip-hop, folk, and electronic influences, Pisces Son Heir He’s Rising is a much less eclectic affair, more fully realizing the folk side of the equation. That’s not to say that it’s tamed though—opener “There She Goes” is a jangling rocker that busts out some serious fretboard action before the “band” audibly “split-up” in the middle of the tune, the guitarist announcing that he hates the rest of them and walking out. Musical jokes don’t usually do it for me, but this is well played and bizarrely complements the axe mayhem. The following “Burn Me Where I Sleep” takes a turn for the beautiful though—pointillist dapples of reverbed guitar underscored by utilitarian, constructivist drums and shrouding delicate double-tracked vocals, not a million miles away from Disco Inferno’s “Summer’s Last Sound” sans samples.

Pisces… is a brief album, under 40 minutes, but its obliquely charming songs are perfectly weighted, the sweetly chiming acoustic guitars on tracks like “I Didn’t Write This Song” (“It wrote itself and sung itself to me” is the conceit), and piano on “Glenlivet Sings Standards” are embellished with backwards touches and sympathetically utilized recording trickery that enhance rather than garnish the slowly seeping melodies and intimate tone. It was also recorded without kerfuffle—a documentary about its making, entitled 21 Days (the length of time it took) is being prepared for early in 2007.

The danger inherent in the ever-increasing profile of vacuous multi-platform mainstream artists (both Keane and Paris Hilton are making albums as adverts for themselves rather than for the simple joy of music) is that those artists making up the infinite tail can more easily slip under the radar because everyone is too busy ignoring “Chasing Cars” to notice. How the stuff in the tail markets itself is key, because not following suite with The Kooks is just as much a marketing decision as pimping yourself hard. Pisces Son Heir He’s Rising is a fantastic record, really creative and original, and deserves to be heard. If you love your record, say so.



Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2006-12-15
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