(If you like: Hey Rosetta!, Matt Mays, Plants & Animals)
Hello Hum was the apex of Wintersleep’s discography; the 2011 record was a fiery demonstration of the Halifax-born band’s ability to captivate through resounding, crushing alternative rock, and soul-touching intensity.
Their previous albums paved the path with well-crafted experimentation on New Interiors and their breakthrough album Welcome to the Night Sky, almost foreshadowing at the skilful, and articulate rock tunes of their latest album. 2008’s oh-so famous “Weighty Ghost” showcased lead singer/guitarist Paul Murphy’s true-spirtied songwriting; and 2010’s “Black Camera” and “Experience the Jewel” providing a glimpse of the band at full power.
But those earlier works were just stepping stones to Hello Hum’s powerful repertoire: “Weighty Ghost” was matured, polished and recrafted into “Saving Song”, and “Black Camera” was trumped by the prolific “In Came the Flood”.
And what is often true in nature, but unfortunately scarce in music, there is always something bigger and better. Hello Hum’s organic and resonating spirit was succeeded by The Great Detachment four years later. The previous hits were topped by “More Than”, and “Amerika” respectively, along with the rest of the new album finding solid ground.
Although Wintersleep are now based in Montreal, the group returned to their roots by recording their sixth album at the Sonic Temple studio in Halifax – the origin of their first three albums, including Welcome to the Night Sky. More so, Wintersleep set out to create a spirited and more organic effort by recording live-off-the-floor. The result: their best record yet.
Their energy on stage and sonic presence was almost perfectly transposed into The Great Detachment, from the opening strikes of the snare drum on lead single “Amerika”, to the harmony filled buzz of closer “Who Are You”. However, it’s what the band does with the energy and spirit that deserves the listener’s attention. Anyone can fill an album with sound and effects, but Wintersleep feverishly stitch together percussion, guitars, keys, bass, and Murphy’s grizzly vocals into a quilt of rhythm and melody.
Although titled The Great Detachment, the album has the band at their most cohesive:
“…we thought it would be interesting to record the rhythm guitars, bass and drums together live to tape and set a limit of three attempts (the length of the tape) per song. We spent another week adding layers to the tracks, recording group vocals and various instruments that we didn’t own and or that sounded best in big spaces…”
Wintersleep show they can travel in unison at fast speeds on hits such as “Amerika”, “Santa Fe”, and “Freak Out”, but also at a more intimate pace with “Shadowless”, “Metropolis”, and “Who Are You”. Each layer and track fits neatly beside each other, providing a driving force from every corner. Even as they experiment (the synthesizer opening of “Love Lies” or the recruitment of Geddy Lee on “Territory”), there remains a concordant judgment – 15 years as a band will do that.
With any luck, Wintersleep will continue the pattern of releasing better, and better music. For now, The Great Detachment is a stunning collection from the paradoxical band – they continue to release valuable music, but remain just below the radar of Canadian music fans – and the album’s presence in time and space at this moment should be enjoyed.