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The Wands - The Dawn (2014) review

The Wands "The Dawn" (Fuzz Club/Get Your Ass To Mars/Smack Face Records, 2014)

Holy crap, The Wands (Interview here) are back at it again!  After their sold-out debut 10”, Hello I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic for Fuzz Club last year I hadn’t been looking forward to a debut full-length like this in a looong time!  While I knew that the 10” was going to be a hard act to follow, I had great faith that the psychedelic juggernauts known simply as The Wands would be more than up to the task.  I was not wrong…  Picking up from the ridiculously tasty fuzzed out sounds that reverberated throughout 2013’s Hello I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic, retro-fitting the San Francisco sound to fit their own twisted desires, melding and combining it with the brooding, heady insanity of BJM and adding their own unique take on the psychedelic landscapes presented on their debut album The Dawn, The Wands offer up one of the most anticipated and also one of the best albums of the year for psych devotees without a doubt!  Don’t be surprised when you start seeing The Dawn popping up on Top Ten lists all over the internet here in a little while, it’s not hype, and it’s not BS, this is just an awesome album.  Opening with the slowly building “Sound Of The Machine”, The Wands quickly recall the sounds of their debut offering, for about the two-minutes.  The last minute or so of “Sound Of The Machine” establishes that The Wands have added a trick or two to their already impressive repertoire of classic psych wizardry and The Dawn is just like a playground for them to experiment with them all and unleash them on an unsuspecting world!  The blistering, snarling dual lead lines that fade into the same keyboard drone that began the song, and runs like an undercurrent beneath it through out, give way to an ingenious refrain that brings “Sound Of The Machine” to a shuddering end that gives way to “And Full Of Colours”.  Starting with a stony riff, carrying on the driving energy of the albums opener, while beginning to expand the pallet of sound, “And Full Of Colours” is simply a great classic psych-rock song.  It builds up to this frenzied, bellowing crescendo for about two-minutes and then just blasts the listener out of their seats with fifteen or twenty seconds of ridiculously sinister and foreboding explosions of guitar feedback and insanely gnarly solos that fade into “Totem Part II”.  “Totem Part II” recalls a lot more of the lysergic, hypnotic droning aesthetic of I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic.  I would even go so far as to say it could have been from the same sessions and left off of the first album, and I mean that as a compliment of the highest regard.  There aren’t a lot of bands that are able to write something a year down the line that can recall the spirit, energy, and in The Wands’ case, the majesty of previous recordings like Hello I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic.  The swirling ethereal energy of “Totem Part II” is almost perfect though.  The guitars jangle and twang, feedback and distortion melting like butter into the soft hum of the bass and flutter of the keys, which peak their head through the smoky haze from time to time, teasing and cavorting with the listener’s ear.  At five minutes long it would be really easy to over-do, or even under-do, a song like “Totem Part II” and get boring, but with such verdant and luscious solos, breaks, peaks, valleys, pitfalls and all out surrealism like this going on, you’re locked in and engaged for the full-duration.  The next track “She’s Electric”, personifies exactly what I’m digging the most about The Dawn from the moment the song gets rolling; howling, distorted, and above all, fuzzy reverb drenched walls of guitar join forces with a keyboard that’s much more forceful and center-stage than in previous recordings.  “She’s Electric” might as well be a reference to the song itself in fact.  It’s a much more straight-up rock and roll song, with not so subtle tinges of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Gion/Hollywood Brian Jonestown Massacre bleeding from every pore.  The best thing about the song, though, is that The Wands are not only able to push their sound in a new direction like this, but they’re also still able to harness the essence of that emphatic, dronish, almost plodding melodiousness they’ve become so well known for.  “Get It Out Of Your System (Don’t You Wanna Feel Alright)” not only evokes their previous album because of the band’s penchant for ridiculously long song-titles, but it has that same kind of finely tuned, refined and tightened San Francisco sound as I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic did.  The keyboards are more upfront this time around, the drums almost glowing – is that flanging on the cymbals I hear?  Good lord that sounds sweet…  The singular lead guitar splits through the even calm of “Get It Out Of Your System (Don’t You Wanna Feel Alright)” and you begin to fade into an unconscious hypnotic state as the music grows stiller and quieter, then builds and bubbles, pulling you from your lethargy into complete attentiveness, only to be back lulled back into submission and berated into consciousness conscious again and again!  The bst lyrics on The Dawn are definitely on “War”.  It actually says, “Let your freak flag fly” “we’re in open war”.  It should be the bands motto and if this is a glimpse into their wisdom they should definitely take their own advice more often!  There’s an unhinged melody to “War” that sounds like it might fall apart at any moment, very intentionally.  It’s a clever way to underscore the uneasy feelings and paranoia that they’re talking about; ingenious almost, actually.  Following “War” the title-track “The Dawn” kicks in like acid, creeping up your spine and seeping into every nook and cranny of your ever expanding mind.  There’s something timeless about Christian Skibdal’s guitar.  It’s that certain kind of indescribable, almost indiscernible genius, which in my opinion, will ensure that people will still be listening to The Wands thirty-years from now, gleaning the kind of knowledge people of my generation have been extracting from Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Jesus and Mary Chain for years now.  They’re part of a musical legacy passed down from generation to generation and it’s nice to hear people still bother to write real lyrics as well.  With lines like “I will show you my greatest illusion, if you tell me your greatest fear, I will take away your confusion, ‘cause I need you to be right here”, the honest brutality and rudimentary beauty of the wording is instantly apparent, and this is from a dude whose first language isn’t even English!  I’m sayin’, timeless.  As the album begins to come to a close, we arrive at “Circles”.  It’s another one of those songs that encompasses everything that The Wands have stood for since day one, but it also brings all those new and interesting ideas and experiences that they’ve been through in the past year to the table as well.  The highs and lows of “Circles” are extreme to say the least.  The Wands don’t leave you anytime to “catch your breath” and from the lyrics, I’d say it’s totally intentional.  Like a roller-coaster ride coming back into the station “Circles” glides into the mellow keyboard drone that opens “Spell My Name” and we join The Wands once again traversing the line between mellow, laid-back psychedelia and blistering, tempestuous, out-and-out rock ‘n’ roll, swaying between dissonant bridges, lumbering riffage and haunting keys.  “The Name Of The Mountain” closes out The Dawn and it does one hell of a job!  I couldn’t think of another song more fitting to close such a vast album.  It has the heaviest, gnarliest riff I’ve yet to hear The Wands conjure forth from their dimension of altered states and realities.  While “The Name Of The Mountain” clocks in at over seven and a half minutes, it’s actually really kind of hard to tell.  Somehow, it doesn’t feel much longer than the three minute tunes on the album, other than the fact that it does have the chance to linger on the solos and lead guitar a little longer, not to mention bring them in and out of the fray a few more times.  Just short of four minutes into the track things really start cooking.  I’ve always wanted to hear Skibdal really get a chance to let loose on the guitars, some major room for him to move around and “The Name Of The Mountain” provides a perfect opportunity for just that.  Now it’s hard to live up to your imagined expectations of something, but the cosmic space droning in the background of the song, stuttering and crashing in and out of reality, teamed with a killer three and a half minute long solo did the trick just fine for me!  When the song finally did fade out I couldn’t help but want another three minutes, ha-ha.  The Dawn isn’t just an incredible debut full-length, it also proves that The Wands aren’t just interested in doing one thing, they’ve been busy locked away like mad-scientists brewing up new ideas and ways to approach things.  I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from The Wands sometime soon, but until then make sure you score a copy of The Dawn now as Fuzz Club stuff never seems to stick around for too long and if you’re into psychedelia you’re not gonna wanna miss out on this platter o’awesome!

Review made by Roman Rathert/2015
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