Scottish band Wozniak is not cut from the same cloth as other bands deemed shoegaze. Their music escapes the constraints of traditional gaze and expands upon the form in a good way. Past recordings made me think they were an instrumental group, but that is not strictly true. Thundering walls of feedback and beautiful noise surround their work, but vocals are employed simply, placed where they best make sense. This is the band’s debut album, recorded with Craig Ross at the Depot Studios in Edinburgh throughout 2016. It eclipses their previous work (all of it good) in multiple ways. I hear different elements in their sound, ranging from sweeping post rock to noise pop (think Sonic Youth circa Daydream Nation) to Krautrock. They are not afraid to experiment, and that produces a sonic tapestry that is truly unique. A darkness pervades this recording, but there is enough light to offset the sorrow.
“Shader” ushers listeners in and holds us in thrall. It is a glistening but deeply dark four minutes of roaring guitar and thrumming bass. It is on this track that I imagine a bit of Sonic Youth creeping in, but that may be explained away by the ferocious instrumental attack. “Ghosting” is watery dream pop, delicate tendrils of sound encasing you as it unwinds. It is slightly tentative and more hopeful, but do not err in thinking it will stay this way. For about 90 seconds, it is all peaceful and laid back, then the energy ramps up and swallows you whole. At times, it retreats and allows in glimmers of light. “Super Panther” has the cadence of majestic post rock, and then it erupts and showers psychedelic bliss on our heads. The bass is mesmerizing, and the guitars shimmer like a mirage. “Perihelion” is the first single, and it is blistering space rock that stretches out its arms to past the seven minute mark. Vocals are supplied by guitarist Sarah Cuthbert-Kerr and float through sweetly.
“Scottish Dancer” is another epic tune, both in scope and in length. It starts off like Flying Saucer Attack has joined in, but it morphs into widescreen psychedelia. Sarah’s ethereal, barely there vocals lend an air of mystery to this excellent tune, with a great, strong main melody anchoring it to terra firma. I love the way the bass meanders along with the singer, taking its time to build to incendiary levels. “Natsuko” sounds instantly familiar and immediately accessible, and clocks in at just under four minutes. Its dreamy layers ripple with beauty and it ends all too soon. “Erebus” has a wicked cool bass line and dark guitar shadings. Some of the instruments I cannot identify, so I am not sure if guitar is being repurposed to sound like something else. In any event, it’s an interesting listen. “Crush” has another welcome vocal turn from Sarah, and she should step up to the mic more often, because it ornaments the music nicely. “Death Suit” is the final tune in this suite, and it’s an eight minute barn burner. It has that otherworldly, exotic feel I used to get whenever I heard Black Sun Ensemble years ago. In summary, I enjoyed listening to this record, which offers up something unique in an already crowded field.
Courage Reels is available as a download and limited edition CD on Morningside Youngteam Records as of April 21st. Go out and feast your ears on this one!