Sunday, February 9, 2014

AP Album Review: Wide Streets - "A Past Hatred Of The Future" - Fanciful Art Rock Fulfills a Dream

Wide Streets' "Saga of The Bruja" was one of my favorite albums of 2013. Their latest album, "A Past Hatred of The Future," is (as a whole) a fanciful indie/ art rock experience that feels like it has as much proto-punk DNA as it does American classical and jazz influences. The guitar phrasings, melodic textures and musical direction feel as inspired by The Talking Heads (or such similar bands) and George Gershwin all in one fell swoop. Amazingly, Wide Streets recorded this collection of songs live from the start to the finish in front of family and friends. Some songs have muted applause after them but a handful end abruptly like the electricity suddenly went out. I am guessing that these slightly clipped songs were done for creative affect or possibly to mask a technical issue. Whatever the reason, when you listen to the album in it's entirety it feels like a concept album. This is mostly due to the whimsical, surreal tone to most of the songs. The compositional nature of the songs are striking and surprising. The songs take shape with lead singer and guitarist Jet Elfman as the story teller and provocateur and shift shape again. Take for example, Tokyo Gas Attack whose musical narrative will break for cool bass flourishes that cast images in your head. The song almost plays like a musical stage play, the guitar melodies attacking and counter attacking culminating in a climactic conclusion until the aforementioned abrupt stop.

Drunken Street Scene feels like the resolution to Tokyo Gas Attack, the bass lines feeling like distorted carnival mirror images of each other. Elfman paints an evocative image, "It all came pouring down like dust out of the sky.... sudden ash and rain like glass came shattering" as the song kind of folds in on itself in a truly beautiful way, eventually changing tempo and tone all together. Any one who knows me well, knows that I am not fond of drum solos but there is a drum and bass solo placed in between songs. Oddly, they feel totally appropriate and set within such an artistically bent milieu each solo feels like characters in this odd musical play. The heavenly tone and guitar work in Remainder Chant feels like spirits ascending (or descending).  Warbo's Dance has the most serene beginning and then shifts into this wonderful intricate tapestry of sounds. The lead work is just so super cool as are the downbeats of sounds coupled with the vocal attack "Electric Life" and "Electric Child." This song, too, ends with subtle applause.

The breadth and scope of this music is hard to put into words. It would be like having to describe an interpretive dance. There is the catch up cadence of Severed Head which feels like an adventure amidst sand dunes (your interpretation is as good as mine).  Icy River Teen Body is inspired by the true story of a teenage girl who falls into an icy river and is instantly mummified by the freezing water. The musical take feels darkly amusing still and somehow like a musical fable, "I said we'll go charting where people go to promise and lie. You said there's no returning from having seen your own face in the sky" or an adventure in the world beyond. Angers / Song of Conception interplays verses with double time musical breaks that feel like youthful freedom. It is a dizzy dance of exuberance. So lovely.

If this was a concept album (or if I chose to make it such) the last two songs would confound, astonish and shout from the roof tops that life is absurd. The Wizards Wand is a short edgy dark lullaby. The 13th and final track, The Third Magician, is insanely fun. It gallops at a breakneck pace like a Russian Kozachok dance. After this crazy musical escapade finishes, family, friends and I applaud. Wide Streets never cease to please my musical sense of adventure. For this talented group of musicians, this third full length outing, "A Past Hatred Of The Future" is a fulfillment of a dream. For those of us partaking in the artistic outcome, these songs will certainly stir up some wild dreams themselves and maybe even inspire some future musicians to chart uncharted musical waters. In any case, we all win.
Robb Donker

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